Former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chauhan today said the main demands of the G-23 — a group of Congress leaders, including him, who sought internal polls and fulltime leadership — have been met: “So, I think, that is over.” But he added that the new party chief must “not be part-time” and be “open to meeting people”, in comments about Rahul Gandhi, who has opted out of the race, and the frontrunner, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
“We can raise our voice if there’s a problem with the democratic process,” Mr Chavan added. He pointed towards one such thing — state units asking interim chief Sonia Gandhi to choose their presidents and asking Rahul Gandhi to retake the top post. “Why do that? The election process should be strengthened instead.” The Maharashtra unit, of which Mr Chavan is a senior member, passed those resolutions too.
“If Rahul Gandhi wants to contest even today, we welcome him, if he fills the form,” said Mr Chavan, when asked about Ashok Gehlot reconfirming today that the Gandhis won’t contest. “He’s been firm on that. I don’t know why some thought he was bluffing.”
“We were never against a family — that’s nonsense,” Mr Chavan further said, “We just wanted that whoever is the chief must come through elections and be available to meet people. Sonia Gandhi accepted both those demands.”
He opposed Mr Gehlot’s desire to keep his position in Rajasthan and be party chief: “He is a senior leader, a good leader. We are yet to decide whether to support him or not. But if he insists on being on both the posts, then we will oppose. Is Congress President a part-time job? Is Chief Minister a part-time job?”
“It seemed he wanted to be chief for two-three months, and then resign once Rahul Gandhi returns from the Bharat Jodo Yatra, at which the Congress Working Committee would have no option other than Rahul Gandhi. But I think that matter is settled now. The last word has been uttered,” he added.
Ashok Gehlot indeed appears to have come around after Rahul Gandhi, too, nixed his two-post desire by citing the party’s ‘one man-one post’ policy. Mr Gehlot has said Sonia Gandhi and state in-charge Ajay Maken would decide on his successor, amid speculation that his younger rival Sachin Pilot may take the Rajasthan post.
Elections to party chief’s post are being held after 22 years, set to end in a non-Gandhi president.
The other main contender is Shashi Tharoor, who was part of the G-23. Manish Tewari from that group is reported to be interested too.
Mr Chavan said: “You guys gave this name (G-23). We wrote a secret letter (to Sonia Gandhi in 2020) that became public. I think our task is over once demands have been accepted, though after two years. We did not have any parallel group.”
“A lot of people saw it otherwise… called us agents of the BJP. Some left too. We were only speaking up to strengthen the Congress,” he said.
Of the G-23, Ghulam Nabi Azad was the latest to formally leave, while some others have protested by quitting party positions.