Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Friday confirmed that he will contest the Congress presidential poll and announced that MP Rahul Gandhi has made it clear that no one from the Gandhi family should become the next party chief, ANI reported.
“It is decided that I’ll contest [for the post of Congress president],” Gehlot told reporters a day after meeting Rahul Gandhi in Kerala. “I’ll fix the date soon [to file his nomination]. It’s a need for the Opposition to be strong, looking at the current position of the country.”
The senior Congress leader added that he has requested Rahul Gandhi multiple times to accept everyone’s proposal and become the party chief for the second time.
“But Rahul ji told me I know everyone wants me to be chief and I respect their wishes but I have decided, for a reason, that a non-Gandhi should be Congress president,” Gehlot said.
The election to decide the successor to the longest-serving party president Sonia Gandhi will take place on October 17 and the results will be announced two days later. Sonia Gandhi has been at the helm since 1998, except the two years between 2017 and 2019 when Rahul Gandhi took over.
The last time the Congress saw any non-Gandhi in the contest for being a party chief was in 2000, when Jitendra Prasada had lost to Sonia Gandhi.
The notification for this year’s poll was issued by the Congress Central Election Authority on Thursday. The week-long nomination window will open on Saturday.
According to reports, the other contender for the top party post is Lok Sabha member Shashi Tharoor.
Gehlot is reportedly unwilling to step down as Rajasthan chief minister as that would mean his rival Sachin Pilot succeeding him.
“One person can remain a minister and also be elected Congress president,” Gehlot had said on Wednesday before a meeting with Sonia Gandhi, according to NDTV. “I will do anything that benefits the party, one post, two posts or three posts, I won’t back down.”
However, Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said the commitment of “one-man, one-post” that was adopted at a conclave in Udaipur in May needs to be honoured.