Sachin Pilot said this on Ashok Gehlot contesting for the post of Congress President

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Congress leader Sachin Pilot walked around the questions on his chances of becoming Chief Minister of Rajasthan if Ashok Gehlot becomes Congress President. “It’s not up to me. That’s for the party high command to decide,” he said, when asked if he agrees with the idea that Mr Gehlot should not keep two posts at the same time.

“See, the party election process is on, and anyone can file nomination. No other party, not the BJP, has such a process,” he further said in an interaction with NDTV, and then moved to asking Rahul Gandhi to again take up the president’s post.

Rajasthan is among several state Congress units that have passed resolutions asking Mr Gandhi to retake the post he left after the 2019 election loss. Sonia Gandhi is interim chief since then, earlier having served for over two decades. 

But since the family wants a non-Gandhi and Ashok Gehlot, 71, is the clear frontrunner — making his move to a national role in Delhi almost certain — focus has shifted to Rajasthan, where Sachin Pilot, 45, is awaiting his turn ever since his failed rebellion of 2020. Mr Pilot lost the deputy chief minister’s post in that coup attempt, and is since awaiting his turn. Now could be that turn, though Mr Gehlot has so far stuck to the stance that there’s no bar on anyone keeping two posts.

Rajasthan votes at the end of next year, barely six months ahead of the Lok Sabha contest. Mr Pilot mentioned this repeatedly: “I believe we have to win states to pave the way for success in 2024. And Rajasthan is an important state, where we have been winning and losing in turns with the BJP. This time we have done work, and have to work even harder in the last one year to win.”   

To a direct question on his taking up the chief minister’s chair before that, he remained cautious, “In 2018, the MLAs decided that whomever the party decides will be the leader. And we abided… That remains our position. I have conveyed to the high command whatever needs to be done to win states.”  

“I don’t want to answer hypothetical questions,” he added, “Let’s wait for the nomination process of the party elections. Two-three days are left,” Mr Pilot added.

Nominations are to be filed from September 24 to 30, and the 9,000-odd delegates — the all-India electoral college — will vote on October 17. 

As for Ashok Gehlot’s latest move, he is to meet Sonia Gandhi in Delhi today and then will fly out to join Rahul Gandhi’s Yatra, though he will reach only after Mr Pilot will have left.

Last night — with Sachin Pilot out of town — Mr Gehlot called a meeting of party MLAs and told them he’ll file his nomination for party chief “but not be far from you”. “I am not going anywhere, don’t worry,” he is learnt to have said.

Speaking to reporters today, he was clearer on the two-post question: “I personally no longer want any post… But, for instance, if a minister becomes party president, he does not have to quit being a minister.”

He did agree with Mr Pilot on at least one count, that he would try to convince Rahul Gandhi “one last time” to take over as the party president.

Shashi Tharoor is also in the contest, but Mr Gehlot has a clear edge for being a Gandhi family loyalist. Mr Tharoor was among 23 senior leaders who’d demanded reforms in the party in a letter to Sonia Gandhi in 2020.

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