The Congress on Wednesday said no one requires the permission of its president Sonia Gandhi or its leader Rahul Gandhi to contest in its presidential polls which is likely to be held next month if there is no consensus on who should be at the helm of the grand old party.
AICC general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh, speaking to the media during the break between the first and second leg of the days' Bharat Jodo Yatra, said, "Anybody is free and welcome to contest in the election if they have the backing of 10 PCC delegates."
"No one requires the permission of Congress president or Rahul Gandhi to file nomination. The elections will be fair and transparent. No other political party in the country holds elections to select their party chief." Mr. Ramesh, at the same time, also said that he believes in selection of the party president based on consensus as per the Kamraj model.
He invoked the "view" of legendary Congress leader K. Kamaraj, which according to him, was "talk to everybody and find a suitable consensus choice" for leading the party.
"If consensus is not possible, then elections are desirable. We are not running away from holding elections," he said.
On who would be throwing their hats in the ring, Mr. Ramesh said he does not know who all will contest, but he certainly will not.
He also said that he does not know whether Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot will file his nomination and if he does, what will happen in that state.
"The Congress party has a system in place to deal with such situations," he added.
Regarding the plans of Mr. Gandhi, also the MP from Wayanad, Mr. Ramesh said that September 23 was a rest day for the yatra and therefore, if the former goes to Delhi it will be to meet his mother who is ill and underwent some tests recently.
"He has not met his mother for the last 2-3 weeks. He is also a human being. Will you not go and meet your mother if she is not well? According to the information I have now, if he goes to Delhi, it will be to meet his mother and not to file the nomination," Mr. Ramesh said.
Amidst the ongoing speculation over who all would contest in the Congress' presidential polls, Mr. Gehlot, one of the possible top contenders for the post and a party choice is expected to reach here in the evening to meet Rahul Gandhi.
Mr. Gehlot's arch rival in Rajasthan politics and party leader Sachin Pilot is already in Kerala and was accompanying Mr. Gandhi on the first leg of the day's Bharat Jodo Yatra, which halted at Edappally here close to 10 AM.
According to Congress party sources, Mr. Gehlot is expected to join the yatra on Thursday.
Mr. Gehlot is considered a frontrunner for the post as he is perceived to be having the backing and confidence of the present dispensation and is likely to be challenged by a G-23 member Shashi Tharoor, who has expressed his desire to contest.
The Rajasthan CM, however, has so far denied that he is a candidate and said he will try to convince Mr. Gandhi to contest.
At the same time, he also told Congress MLAs a day ago that they will be asked to come to New Delhi if he decides to file his nomination for the party president election.
The poll process for the Congress president's election will begin on September 22 with the issue of the notification, and the nomination filing will start from September 25 to 30.
The election will be held on October 17 and the result will be out two days later.