After Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot announced his candidature for the Congress president’s post, a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting was called on Sunday night to pick his successor at the CM residence in Jaipur.
However, a majority of MLAs loyal to Gehlot skilled the CLP meet and reached minister Shanti Kumar Dhariwal’s home, defying the party line. Later, they went to meet Speaker of the Assembly Dr. CP Joshi and submitted their resignations to him, opposing any move to pick Sachin Pilot as the next chief minister.
Congress observers Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge returned to Delhi and briefed Sonia Gandhi after the failure to hold the legislature party meeting due to the revolt by over 90 MLAs loyal to Gehlot. This set the stage for an impending desert storm in Rajasthan Congress unit.
Who is Shanti Kumar Dhariwal?
The 78-year-old MLA from Kota North, who is one of most trusted Gehlot’s men for over two decades, did not refrain from taking on the Congress high command and alleged party’s central observer Ajay Maken was part of a “conspiracy” to oust CM Ashok Gehlot. This came after Maken, who was sent as a central observer, criticised MLAs loyal to Gehlot for placing conditions for the resolution to be taken up in the legislature party meeting on deciding the next CM.
Known as Gehlot’s troubleshooter, Dhariwal is a Minister for Local Self Government, Urban Development & Housing, Law & Legal Affairs, Legal Consultancy Office, Parliamentary Affairs and Elections.
Dhariwal also held crucial portfolios like home during the Congress rule between 2008 and 2013 when Gehlot was the chief minister. A three-time MLA and one-term MP from Kota district is likely to get a notice for breaching the party’s discipline and preventing the CLP meeting, Hindustan Times reported.
Dhariwal entered Rajasthan Assembly in 1998 as an MLA when Gehlot formed his government. He is one of the vocal voices against the rise of Gehlot’s rival Sachin Pilot as the chief minister.
Dhariwal’s Allegations Against Maken
Launching all-out attack on the Congress high command, Dhariwal has said MLAs of Rajasthan will not sit through and tolerate traitors (apparently referring to Sachin Pilot) being rewarded. He said that Maken is canvassing to make Pilot the chief minister.
“A general secretary is himself canvassing to make such people CM, MLAs had to get angry, disgruntled. MLAs asked me to listen to their voice. They want someone from 102 MLAs who huddled together to stay with Congress for over 34 days (in 2020) to be made CM,” he said.
“CM Gehlot has always followed the instructions of the High Command. The High Command had (back in 2020) asked him to accommodate those in wrong and he accepted what was asked (to include Sachin Pilot),” he added.
Dhariwal asked why Gehlot, who is holding only one post (Rajasthan CM), is being asked to resign as the chief minister. He further said that talks of his resignation arises when he gets the other post (Congress president). However, after the crisis in Rajasthan, Gehlot is no longer in the race for Congress president.
The decision on Rajasthan CM’s position will be likely taken after Congress Presidential Elections next month, sources told News18. Meanwhile, Congress sources have said that no disciplinary action will be taken against CM Ashok Gehlot as of now. Gehlot conveyed to the party’s high command that his MLAs have stopped listening to him and they didn’t keep him in loop.