Maken ends Rajasthan visit, Gehlot says he is guardian of Cong MLAs

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By: Express News Service | Jaipur |
July 31, 2021 5:31:20 am

Amidst the chatter about an impending expansion of the Cabinet in Rajasthan, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has underlined that he remains the “guardian” of the Congress MLAs, and would continue to fulfill that role.

Gehlot said this at an informal dinner at the chief minister’s residence attended by the visiting Congress in-charge for Rajasthan Ajay Maken on Thursday, senior leaders of the party said. Maken has been speaking to leaders and MLAs of the faction-ridden party in the state.

“The Chief Minister had said this last year too, when all the MLAs were staying at a hotel in Jaisalmer, and he reiterated it again yesterday that he is our guardian and he is here to stay,” Congress MLA Mahesh Joshi, the party’s chief whip in the Assembly, told The Indian Express on Friday.

Congress sources said Gehlot also spoke about forgiving and forgetting — something he had said at the end of the political crisis last year as well.

The crisis in the party and government had been triggered by former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and 18 MLAs loyal to him camping in Haryana and Delhi for a month, leading to uncertainty and questions about the stability of Gehlot’s government.

MLAs loyal to the Gehlot faction were likewise taken to a hotel in Jaisalmer to pre-empt any possible switching of sides. The crisis had ultimately passed after Pilot backed down, but the faultlines in the party have endured.

At the end of his three-day visit to the state during which he took feedback from party MLAs, AICC general secretary Maken said on Friday that some ministers were ready to step down from their posts and work for the party organisation — an apparent reference to the upcoming cabinet expansion.

“I am very happy that I found many MLAs and people holding positions who said that they were ready to leave government posts and help in strengthening the organisation. They said that if needed, they were ready to leave their posts as ministers and work for the organisation… I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart,” Maken said.

The Assembly elections of 2023, and how the Congress could retain power, had been discussed in the meetings with the MLAs, he said.

“In the last three days, I have spoken with all MLAs of the Congress, and those who support the party. I have spoken with 115 MLAs, and have also discussed matters with the chief minister, the state Congress president, and Sachin Pilot ji in Delhi along with (senior leader) C P Joshi ji. We discussed how we can bring back the Congress party to power in 2023,” Maken told reporters on Friday.

He said discussions on the cabinet expansion, political appointments, and constitution of district committees were ongoing, and appointments would be made soon.

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