“I am aware of people’s faith in me,” Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said. (PTI)
It was meant to be a routine post-Budget press conference, but Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot delivered another bolt from the blue taking his detractors by surprise.
Using the occasion to reiterate his claim to the chief ministership of Rajasthan, Mr Gehlot said people in the state, during the elections, were asking for him to be made the chief minister.
“It was Ashok Gehlot and no other,” he said.
For a leader known for his low key approach to politics, this is the strongest statement yet from Mr Gehlot in a leadership tussle in Rajasthan that has lasted nearly six months.
After winning the December 2018 assembly elections and ousting the Vasundhara Raje government, Ashok Gehlot pipped the other front runner, Sachin Pilot, to the chief minister’s chair.
Mr Gehlot and Mr Pilot did not begin their work relationship on good terms after the Congress came to power in Rajasthan. Mr Pilot was persuaded to give up his claim to the chief minister’s post by Rahul Gandhi. This was after Mr Gehlot convinced the leadership that he would be able to deliver good results in the Lok Sabha election.
But the Congress failed to win even one of Rajasthan’s 25 seats.
After the Lok Sabha results, the leadership tussle again broke out with the Sachin Pilot camp calling for accountability and even Rahul Gandhi upset with Mr Gehlot for having spent too much time in his son’s campaign in Jodhpur.
Last month, a Congress lawmaker went public with his call for a leadership change and the removal of Ashok Gehlot as Chief Minister, adding to the veteran’s troubles after a national election rout that a section of the party blames on him. “Sachin Pilot should be Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot has lost his influence,” Congress legislator Prithviraj Meena had.
With Rahul Gandhi resigning as Congress president, there has been speculation that Mr Gehlot may be wanted in Delhi to play a larger role in the party. But it seems like the Rajasthan Chief Minister wanted to set the speculation at rest by this strong statement.
“I am aware of people’s faith in me, in the last election in every village and hamlet the feeling was that Ashok Gehlot should be chief minister and nobody else, my name was doing the rounds. Rahul Gandhi giving into the people’s sentiments gave me this opportunity as Congress president and I am here to serve the people. I took oath as chief minister, though of course we could not deliver in Lok Sabha elections, but then everywhere in the country the Congress could not deliver because of the way Modiji fought the elections,” he said.
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