On Friday, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot announced that he would file his nomination for the Congress president’s post. He also confirmed that no member of the Nehru-Gandhi family will contest the election.
Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor is likely to be the other contender for the top post of the Congress party.
When Gehlot was asked who would be appointed Rajasthan CM if he became Congress president in light of the one man-one post rule, Gehlot said, “Our general secretary in-charge Mr Ajay Maken and Congress president Sonia ji will decide what and when the process will be adopted there as I am becoming Congress president.”
This statement was criticised by the BJP. The ruling party’s spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla, in a couple of tweets retorted, “Ashok Gehlot says ‘party president Sonia Gandhi‘ will decide further proceedings (for Rajasthan) if I become party president’! What capacity will she have? She will be ex-president! Shouldn’t Congress MLAs decide? So Gandhis will have remote control! Farzi chunav kyu phir (Why then this fake election)?”
Continuing his attack on the Congress, Shehzad said, “Sir, after you become president, how and why will Sonia Gandhi decide? Is she permanent president and will you be a remote-controlled president?”
Ashok Gehlot says “Party president Sonia Gandhi” will decide further proceedings (for Rajasthan) if I become party… https://t.co/fRc6VjhKKO
— Shehzad Jai Hind (@Shehzad_Ind) 1663911073000
Later, the BJP spokesperson alleged that it was proof that the next president of Congress would be a proxy of the Gandhis and would be “remote-controlled by the Gandhis like former prime minister Manmohan Singh was by party president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi”.
Talking to TOI on the condition of anonymity, a senior BJP leader said the whole election process was a sham. He went to state that no one else but Rahul Gandhi would finally become the Congress president.
The leader said, “This Congress election process is a sham. They will disqualify Shashi Tharoor on technical grounds, Gehlot will cry to Sonia and ask Rahul to become president. He will withdraw his nomination at the last minute listening to his inner conscience. All Congress state units will recommend Rahul, who will become president unopposed.”
Some BJP leader also questioned the internal democracy of the Congress over reports that both Gehlot and Tharoor got a nod from Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi to contest the presidential election.
Mumbai BJP women’s wing leader Priti Gandhi said in a tweet, “The fact that Shashi Tharoor needs a ‘go ahead’ from Sonia Gandhi to contest an election defeats the whole purpose of what they’re trying to project as a free and fair, democratic process! Why this farce? Just declare Rahul Gandhi as Congress president!”
Later, Congress spokesperson and general secretary in-charge of communications Jairam Ramesh sought to clarify the matter. “Entire party is immersed in making #BharatJodoYatra a success. Even so it’s important to reiterate that any member is welcome to contest for Congress president. This is a democratic and transparent process. Nobody needs anybody’s nod to contest, especially that of party leadership.”
Entire party is immersed in making #BharatJodoYatra a success. Even so it’s important to reiterate that any member… https://t.co/4zMDPHDYhg
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) 1663651587000
BJP leader and co-in-charge of West Bengal Amit Malviya hit out at Rahul Gandhi for not contesting the election. “Rahul Gandhi’s sense of entitlement is so bloated that he chose not to serve as a minister in MMS’s (Manmohan Singh’s) cabinet because he wouldn’t settle for anything less than PM. Some people now expect that arrogant brat to contest an election for Congress president alongside Tharoor and Gehlot?”
Rahul Gandhi’s sense of entitlement is so bloated that he chose not to serve as a minister in MMS’s cabinet because… https://t.co/ApafUBQd8r
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) 1663745647000
Meanwhile, after Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh’s support to Gehlot and attack on Tharoor, the party leadership has issued gag orders to all its spokespersons over taking sides in the presidential election. Ramesh has asked them to remain bipartisan.
Vallabh, in a series of tweets, had said, “Like crores of workers, my first wish is that Shri Rahul Gandhi ji should give his leadership to the Congress and the country. But if Rahul Gandhi ji is neutral in his decision and has to choose between the two names that are appearing in public discussion, then there can be no comparison between the two.”
The spokesperson said, “On the one hand, Shri Ashok Gehlot ji, who has the experience of being a Union Minister, 3 times chief minister, 5 times MP, 5 times MLA, who has defeated Modi-Shah in a direct contest, whose 45 years have an impeccable political life. On the other hand there is Mr Shashi Tharoor sahib who has only one major contribution to the party in the last 8 years – sent letters to Congress president Sonia Gandhi ji when she was hospitalised, this act caused pain to crores of party workers like me. The selection is very simple and clear.”
इस थ्रेड के सारे ट्विट कांग्रेस के कार्यकर्ता के रूप में है ना कि प्रवक्ता के रूप में करोड़ों कार्यकर्ताओं की तरह… https://t.co/oBf5ytjBGn
— Prof. Gourav Vallabh (@GouravVallabh) 1663817654000
According to sources, Ramesh, in a message to all spokespersons and office bearers of the communication department, said, “I would strongly urge all spokespersons and office bearers of communications department of AICC to refrain from making any comment of any kind on any colleague of ours contesting the elections for the post of Congress president.”
“We all have our individual preferences but our job is to only highlight that the Congress is the only political party to have a democratic and transparent system in place for election to the post of its president,” he said.