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Kharge, Maken fail to resolve Rajasthan crisis, ball in Sonia court

Cong asks Gehlot to rein in rebel MLAs, Rebel MLAs not in favour of Sachin Pilot as CM.

Yash Goyal | Jaipur |

After a meeting with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot amid a political crisis, Congress party observer for the state Mallikarjun Kharge, on Monday, called for discipline and unity in the party.

Kharge said, “We have informed the Congress president about what happened yesterday. Everybody has to abide by whatever decision is taken eventually. We have to keep the party united. There should be discipline in the party.”

The remark regarding the discipline in the party is in line with the statement of Ajay Maken, another observer for the state, who described a “parallel” meeting called by state minister Shanti Dhariwal at his residence on Sunday as an “undisciplined move”.

The Congress leader, Ajay Maken, who was in Jaipur with Mallikarjun Kharge to convene a CLP meeting to decide on the new CM face, spoke to the media after a high-voltage drama in Rajasthan. He said three members of the Gehlot camp had met them with three proposals none of which were accepted as they raised conflict of interest.

Maken told the media persons that Shanti Dhariwal, Mahesh Joshi and Pratap Khachriyawas, representing the Gehlot group, visited him on Sunday night with the three proposals and a strict ‘no’ to Sachin pilot as new CM’.

“In their first proposal,” he said, “they said if you (the observers) want to pass a resolution that the Congress high command should be allowed to take a final decision, pass it after October 19. We told them if Gehlot is elected as the Congress president, this proposal will empower him further, there can’t be a bigger conflict of interest than this.”

“Secondly,” he said, “when we sought to talk to each of them in person, they replied in the negative saying ‘we will talk in groups’. We categorically told them that this has been the Congress practice to take feedback from each leader and we will do the same. But they insisted on coming in groups and wanted us to go public with it.

“Thirdly, they said that the CM should be picked from the 102 MLAs who have been loyal to the Congress during the rebellion, and not from the Pilot group,” he concluded.

Maken said they are firm on one-on-one interaction with each MLA before giving a feedback to Sonia Gandhi on the issue of next chief minister of the state. Thereupon, she will talk to Gehlot and the final decision will be taken.

However, the three of them insisted their three points be part of the resolution. The observers waited for them to return with some suggestions on Sunday night, but as they did not they have decided to leave and present the report to Sonia Gandhi, he informed.

The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting called on Sunday at Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s residence was to be cancelled as more than 90 Congress MLAs loyal to Gehlot threatened to resign while demanding that the new CM face be picked from their group.

Meanwhile, according to highly placed sources in Congress, Kamal Nath, a veteran Congress leader, is likely to be roped in to defuse the full-blown political crisis in Rajasthan after the efforts of state in-charge Ajay Maken and Observer Mallikarjun Kharge were in vain.

This may prove costly for Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot as the Gandhis have not taken kindly to his muscle flexing using his loyalists.

Against this backdrop, Pilot is being seen as the successor of Ashok Gehlot, who is all set to contest the Congress presidential election scheduled on October 17, as chief minister. The Rajasthan deputy chief minister, late last night, conducted a second round of meeting with the AICC observers.

Meanwhile, the Congress observers for the state, Kharge and Ajay Maken, reached Delhi.

They will submit a report pertaining to the political crisis in Rajasthan.

“We arrived in Delhi after meeting three MLAs in Jaipur. We are going to give our report to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi,” said Ajay Maken ahead of his meeting with Congress’s interim president.