Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, days ahead of the state elections, said today that it is his desire to “gift an election victory to Sonia Gandhi”. “She made me Chief Minister after becoming the party chief in 1998. She placed her trust in me. So it is also my duty to gift her an election victory.” he told Newsbust India in an exclusive interview barely a year after his loyalists rebelled against the party’s Central command over the issue of his successor, when he was called to Delhi for the party’s internal elections.
Mr Gehlot was the party’s first choice for the top post that Mallikarjun Kharge occupies today. But the prospect of his rival Sachin Pilot succeeding him at the Chief Minister’s post in Rajasthan had hugely upset Mr Gehlot and his loyalists, who launched an open rebellion.
More than 70 MLAs had skipped the Legislature Party meeting sought by Mrs Gandhi, where the succession issue was to be settled, and held a parallel meeting.
The ripples of that rebellion are yet to die down. This time, Gehlot loyalists Dharmendra Rathore and Mahesh Joshi, among the leaders indicted by the party for the parallel meeting, have been denied ticket.
Mr Gehlot’s ambition, though, is a tough ask in a state that has been voting out the incumbent for over three decades. This time, the open factionalism in the party is expected to cost it dear. The rift between Mr Gehlot and Sachin Pilot — which split the party down the middle and brought the government on the brink of collapse two years ago — is no secret.
Mr Gehlot, though, denied there was ever a rift.
“All of us are on the same page. The BJP is a divided house,” he told Newsbust India.
Asked if he would make a comeback as a Chief Minister, the 72-year-old said, “All this is decided by the legislators and the party High Command. I have faith in them”.
Rajasthan votes in a single phase on November 25 and the counting is due on December 3.