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Despite Rahul Gandhi’s say-no, Ashok Gehlot signals to MLAs that he will run for Congress president if Rahul does not; Ashok Gehlot to meet Sonia

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot at Sabarmati Riverfront event venue during Parivartan Sankalp rally in Ahmedabad.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot today gave clear signals to Congress MLAs in the state that he’s decided to run in the post of Congress President in case Rahul Gandhi not running. This was even as the party’s leadership has stated that people in the Gandhi family including Congress head Sonia Gandhi, are unlikely to sign the nomination documents of any candidate as proposers in order to prove that they are “neutral” and that there is no official or established candidate.

In a surprise gathering of Congress MLAs on Tuesday night, Gehlot is learned to have stated that he was an unwavering party member and would be adamant about any decisions the leader makes. He said he’d meet with Sonia on Delhi Wednesday, and then travel into Kerala for a meeting with Rahul Gandhi in an attempt to get Rahul Gandhi “one last time” to take on the presidency and become Congress president.

If Rahul doesn’t alter his mind, he stated that he’d do what the party demanded for him to perform.

Gehlot has also invited all MLAs to join him in Delhi to witness his nomination papers being filed. The week-long period for nomination papers is set to begin at the end of September. Sources say Gehlot may file nomination papers on or after September 26.

Informing the meeting of his plans of meeting Rahul in Kochi to convince him one final time at the group: “If he (Rahul) doesn’t agree, and if the party asks me to do something – I have never said no — and if I have to fill the form, I will call all of you (for filing the nomination).”

He also assured the MLAs they would never be distant from Rajasthan.

Speaking to reporters at the home of the Chief Minister after the session, Rajasthan Cabinet Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas stated: “The Chief Minister said that if he fills up the form (for the post of the president) it will be when the party directs him to do so and he has always followed (the leadership’s directions).”

When asked who would become the chief minister in the event that Gehlot is elected party President, Khachariyawas said: “Ashok Gehlot is the Chief Minister and will remain as. There is no evidence (pointing in the opposite direction). He claimed that he was not going to leave Rajasthan. If the Chief Minister Gehlot himself is in the process of preparing the Budget this means the Chief Minister isn’t moving anywhere and will remain to stay in Rajasthan.”

There is no certainty about what happens if Gehlot will step down prior to filing his nomination. Gehlot is believed to want to is allowed to remain Chief Minister for a longer time or that someone “close” to him is chosen to succeed him. Although Congress sources deny such rumors there is tension within each of the Gehlot along with Sachin Pilot camps.

The Pilot camp wants Gehlot to be removed from office prior to the filing of his nomination papers and until a successor is chosen. The Pilot’s supporters are worried that should Gehlot is elected Chief Minister and get elected Congress as president, he would be able to have the “huge say” in picking his successor, and it could have to be Pilot.

Pilot Tuesday contacted Kochi and asked him to go on the yatra along with Rahul Wednesday.

AICC General Secretary K C Venugopal, who was also with Rahul and Rahul, flew in Delhi and was in close contact with Rahul. They sat down with the Congress president for almost an hour. He later declared publicly that the leadership of the Congress will stay “neutral.”

“We have declared that anyone can run during this election. That’s the policy of the party. It is also the position that the leaders have. Anyone who is in opposition… The leadership would adopt a neutral position,” Venugopal said.

The previous Monday Shashi Tharoor, the president of India, met Gandhi and told her that he was thinking of running for one of the most prestigious posts. Although the majority of the party, including its leadership, is expecting a race some leaders think there may be more than two contenders. Similar to Tharoor, G-23 leader Manish Tewari is also thought to be contemplating throwing his hat into the arena. It’s not likely that both will run. Tharoor has stated that he would remain away if a person from his Gandhi family is involved in the race and Tewari is believed to believe that the vote should not remain without a fight.

Three more states Haryana, Kerala, and Jharkhand Tuesday adopted resolutions calling for Rahul to take over the presidency, bringing the number of states that have requested Rahul as president thus far to 10.

He said Venugopal: “Rahul Gandhi has never told us anything. He has not even told us that he’s going to run for president… In the event that people trust Rahul Gandhi, then why shouldn’t Congress employees have faith in Rahul Gandhi? Every state is demanding… we need Rahul Gandhi (as President) to be the president because )… as President) to be their decision) to be President. Why shouldn’t the party’s leaders enjoy this much freedom?”

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