Efforts were underway by senior Congress leaders on Monday to resolve the impasse in Rajasthan after several MLAs loyal to Ashok Gehlot submitted resignation letters over a possible move to appoint Sachin Pilot as the next chief minister.
Congress observers Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken, who had waited in vain for all legislators to arrive for the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting on Sunday, were trying to persuade Gehlot loyalists to meet them one by one in an effort to defuse the political crisis.
The Gehlot loyalists had visited Speaker C P Joshi’s home after a long meeting at minister Shanti Dhariwal’s residence on Sunday, saying they were resigning as MLAs.
At the chief minister’s home, Gehlot, Kharge and Maken waited for all legislators to arrive for the CLP meeting.
Pilot and his supporters came but the meeting was a washout.
Gehlot loyalists claimed that over 90 MLAs had visited Joshi’s home, but the number could not be verified independently. The Congress has 108 MLAs in the House of 200.
There was no word from the Speaker’s office on the resignation letters.
Ministers Dhariwal, Pratap Singh Khachariyawas and Mahesh Joshi, along with CM Gehlot’s advisor Sanyam Lodha met the AICC observers, but the standoff continued.
On their return, sources said, they told the other loyalists that they had put forth three conditions.
They wanted the decision on the next CM to be left till after the Congress organisational election and stressed that Gehlot should have a say in picking the new CM who should be someone who stood by the veteran leader during the rebellion by Pilot supporters in 2020.
“We have submitted our resignation and are now going home. The MLAs want that any decision on the CM’s should be taken only after the election of the party’s national president,” minister Govind Ram Meghwal had said.
The loyalists said the views of MLAs should be taken into account.
“Later, whatever decision taken by the high command will be accepted,” independent MLA Babulal Nagar had said.
The aborted CLP meeting was seen as crucial step ahead of Gehlot filing his nomination for the Congress president’s post, amid speculation that the former deputy chief minister Pilot will take his place in the state.
Gehlot, seen by many as a reluctant candidate for the top party position, initially appeared unwilling to give up his CM’s post. Later, it was speculated that he would rather see Joshi — or anyone else — as CM rather than Pilot, who had rebelled against his leadership.
Gehlot had told reporters in Jaisalmer that the MLAs would pass a one-line resolution at the CLP meeting calling upon party president Sonia Gandhi to pick his successor.
But the MLAs seemed to go off script.
Before setting off for Joshi’s home, some Gehlot loyalists had said the next CM should be someone who was instrumental in saving the government during the 2020 crisis and not anyone involved in the bid to topple it, a veiled reference to Pilot.
“We are going to the Speaker’s residence and will submit our resignation,” Khachariyawas had told reporters.
Another leader, Govind Ram Meghwal, said Gehlot can shoulder both roles, that of the chief minister as well as the party’s national president.
He said if Gehlot does not remain CM, the party will face problems in winning the next Assembly elections.
“If a decision is not taken keeping the MLAs’ sentiments in mind, the government will be in danger,” independent legislator and advisor to the chief minister Lodha had said.
Gehlot and Pilot were at loggerheads over the chief minister’s post soon after the Congress won the Assembly elections in December 2018.
The high command then chose Gehlot as the chief minister for the third time while Pilot was made his deputy.
In July 2020, Pilot along with 18 party MLAs rebelled against Gehlot’s leadership.