Gehlot loyalist, Pilot or a surprise choice? Rajasthan CLP to meet today, likely to pick new CM

New Delhi: In a late-night development, Congress called a meeting of its legislature party in Rajasthan on Sunday, in what appears to be an exercise to pick the successor of chief minister Ashok Gehlot, the putative AICC president following the internal elections to be decided next month.
The point of interest in the succession battle is if Gehlot’s bete noire Sachin Pilot, who has the support of some members of the Gandhi family, will be named the successor or if the CM will have a say in deciding the issue. It is believed that Rajasthan CM, widely seen as the candidate of Gandhis and the overwhelming favourite to be the Congress chief, would prefer a loyalist to be put in his place, if he has to quit the post in Jaipur.
Gehlot loyalists on Saturday demanded that he should be allowed to stay on as CM if he becomes the Congress president. Pilot camp said Sachin is the frontrunner in the race, and the issue may become clear even before the legislature party meeting.
Sources said the legislature party is likely to pass a resolution to authorise the Congress president to nominate the new chief minister. The urgency of the meeting stems from the fact that Rajasthan unit has been convulsed by serious jockeying for the next CM, with different camps criticising rivals and promoting their candidates.
The polarisation between Pilot supporters and Gehlot camp has also deepened in last few days. The party wants to stanch the blood letting in the state unit by conveying that the leadership is seized of the issue. AICC general secretary KC Venugopal tweeted, “Congress president has appointed Mallikarjun Kharge as observer along with Ajay Maken, general secretary AICC, in charge of Rajasthan, to attend the meeting of Congress Legislature Party of Rajasthan legislative assembly slated to be held on 25th September at 7 pm.”
The meeting comes in the backdrop of the upcoming internal election, and the decision of Congress that “one man one post” principle should be followed in the likely event of Gehlot becoming the party president.
The decision to call the meeting shows that the leadership led by Gandhis have no doubts about Gehlot, supposed to be their preferred choice, becoming party chief. The core issue is if Gehlot will have to relinquish the CM’s post, and if Pilot will replace him. Pilot is also the choice of the leadership. But the party has to negotiate the CM’s preference, and the legislature party in which Gehlot has an absolute support. “This is the only bottleneck in the entire issue,” a Congress manager said.

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