“’Main Thansu Door Nahi’ (I am never far from you)” — Ashok Gehlot has often used this line in local dialect before the people in Rajasthan to say he will never be separated from the state. After a 40-year-long political career, the Chief Minister still maintains the same even as he is now tipped to contest for the big post of the next Congress president.
For the record, Gehlot has been a strong votary of Rahul Gandhi returning as the Congress president. In interviews to this correspondent earlier, Gehlot said Rahul Gandhi has the tenacity and aggression to take on Narendra Modi. Even now, Gehlot is expected to meet Rahul in person in Kerala as part of the Bharat Jodo Yatra and urge him one last time to return as the Congress chief. But Rahul is expected to decline and this could pave the way for Gehlot to fill up the nomination form. Gehlot is expected to sail through even if Shashi Tharoor does contest against him.
Gehlot as Congress president could be the best bet for the party that is in political doldrums, losing one state after the other. One, Gehlot has a record to show. He has been a three-time CM and as the general secretary in charge of Gujarat in 2017, he brought Congress 77 seats, running the BJP close in the state which has been its fiefdom. Gehlot also comes from the Hindi-belt where the Congress has been struggling to stand up to the BJP. Though the Congress has been stressing on the south, party leaders know getting its mojo back in the North is crucial for it.
Gehlot also remains a trusted man of the Gandhis, with a good knowledge of the party structure and with the most wider acceptability after the family. He was the general secretary in charge of organisation in Delhi, working with Rahul Gandhi as then party president, before returning to Rajasthan as the CM. Though Sachin Pilot had put up a spirited case to be appointed the CM then, the Gandhis opted for Gehlot given most MLAs backed him. During the crisis two years ago when Pilot triggered a rebellion, the Gandhis backed Gehlot again and Pilot lost out his positions of Deputy CM and the PCC chief in Rajasthan.
What Happens to Rajasthan CM Post?
If Gehlot becomes the Congress president, the big question is if he will retain the CM’s chair or would want his loyalist to be appointed the CM. Pilot is fancying his chances, especially after Rahul Gandhi recently praised his “patience” and an apparent promise made to him to make him the CM face before the Rajasthan elections next year. Gehlot met all his MLAs, except Pilot, in Jaipur Tuesday evening and assured them “I would continue to serve Rajasthan wherever I am.” This is being seen as Gehlot’s pitch to remain in control of Rajasthan even from Delhi.
Gehlot could call all Rajasthan Congress MLAs to Delhi as a show of strength if he files his nomination as Congress president. The real games could begin in the desert state then.