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Gandhi family loyalist Ashok Gehlot to run for Congress President

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With Rahul opting out

BY S VENKAT NARAYAN   
Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, September 24: Gandhi family loyalist and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is likely to be the next President of the Congress Party. But he will have to step down as chief minister on Rahul Gandhi’s insistence on one-man-one-post policy. Gehlot, seen as the nominee of Gandhis, announced his decision to enter the fray while acquiescing to the insistence to quit his position in Jaipu

Gehlot had on Wednesday declared his intent to continue as Rajasthan CM even if he was elected as Congress chief. But he gave up his insistence after Rahul Gandhi declared that the new party chief will have to adhere to the “one man one post” principle.

“What we decided in Udaipur is a commitment of the Congress. So, I expect that the commitment will be maintained,” said Rahul Gandhi. Immediately afterwards, Gehlot termed Rahul’s position “correct,” and said that no Congress president has ever been a chief minister.

The development on the sensitive issue came hours after Congress election authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry on Thursday morning issued the much-awaited notification to announce the start of the election process, which is likely to witness a contest after 22 years.

The Congress is India’s oldest political party, founded in 1885. The Gandhi family had dominated the party since 1921, when Jawaharlal Nehru’s father Motilal Nehru became its President. Since then, six members of the country’s most famous political dynasty had been Congress Presidents for a total of 45 years: Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Three of them ruled India as Prime Ministers since the country became independent in 1947: Nehru, Indira and Rajiv.

Rajiv Gandhi was the last member of the family whose prime ministership ended 33 years ago in 1989. But the Gandhi family and the Congress became synonymous in Indian politics. Though the family has been out of power for over three decades, Sonia Gandhi controlled the party and the governments of Congress Party’s PV Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh. The party suffered humiliating defeats in parliamentary and state assembly polls since the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rode to power at the centre in 2014.

However, every fifth voter voted for the Congress in the 2019 general election. And the Gandhis continue to enjoy a pan-Indian recognition. Seen as the leadership’s choice and a frontrunner in the clash that may pit him against Kerala MP Shashi Tharoor, Gehlot joined Rahul for a few hours in the “Bharat Jodo Yatra” (Unify India Foot March) at Kochi in Kerala state like his political rival Sachin Pilot did on Wednesday.

 Gehlot had earlier announced that he will meet Rahul as part of his last-ditch attempt to convince him to take over the reins of the party.Gehlot said on Friday that Rahul Gandhi has made it clear that no one from the Gandhi family should become the party chief. He met with Rahul Gandhi in Kerala, where he joined his “Bharat Jodo Yatra” on Thursday evening.

“I requested him multiple times to accept everyone’s wish that he returns as Congress President. He told me he had decided that no one from the Gandhi family should become the next chief,” Gehlot told reporters.

“Rahul ji told me: ‘I know they want me to be chief and I respect their wish. But I have decided, for a reason, that a non-Gandhi should be the Congress president’,” he added.

Gehlot is believed to be the Gandhis’ leading choice for the role as the Congress prepares for its first non-Gandhi chief since 2000. The 71-year-old Congress veteran has been holding out, apparently because he is reluctant to give up the role of Chief Minister of Rajasthan. He had suggested that he could handle both responsibilities, but Rahul Gandhi shot it down.

“We have made a commitment in Udaipur, I expect that the commitment will be maintained,” Rahul Gandhi told reporters in Kochi on Thursday on the “one person, one post” rule adopted by the Congress earlier this year. The Gandhis, distancing themselves from the top post amid massive churning within and questions on their leadership following serial election defeats, have also refused to endorse any candidate.

While the outcome of a Gehlot vs Tharoor clash would be a foregone conclusion, the real drama lies in who will replace Gehlot in Jaipur. Gehlot told reporters: “Let us see what situation unfolds in Rajasthan, what decision the Congress leadership takes, what the MLAs think.”

Gehlot has an overwhelming support in the Rajasthan Congress legislature party. He may not be averse to quitting the CM’s post, and his claim about holding both the posts was likely a maximalist position to enable him to have a decisive say in picking his successor, who he wants should be his trusted individual over bete noire Sachin Pilot.

The names of assembly speaker C P Joshi, a multiple-term minister and a Brahmin minister are high on Gehlot’s list. A senior office-bearer said Pilot is a serious option in the list of probables. “The leadership will decide,” he said.

Sources said a discussion on Gehlot’s replacement is part of the presidential election, and is going on simultaneously — implying it may be finalized by the end of the election.Gehlot’s two-hour-long meeting with Congress Party’s Interim Chief Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday appears to have touched upon the ticklish issue, especially because of the presence of Pilot as an aspirant.



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Businesses can collapse due to electricity tariff increase next year– Patali

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Patali Champika Ranawaka

The Cabinet has approved increase in electricity tariffs in two stages in January and June 2023.

The disclosure was made on Tuesday (29) at a meeting of the Sub Committee on Identifying the Short & Medium-Term Programmes, related to Economic Stabilisation of the National Council.

The government increased power tariffs in August this year.

Parliament announced that although the electricity tariffs had been increased in the recent past, the CEB was still running at a loss.

The representatives of the government and private institutions related to the power sector were called before the Committee to obtain proposals for the purpose of solving the issues in the power sector.

In order to cover the current losses of the CEB, electricity tariffs had to be increased by about 70%, the statement issued by Parliament quoted CEB representatives as having said.

The statement quoted Chairman of the Committee, Patali Champika Ranawaka, as having said that if electricity tariffs were increased to cover CEB’s losses, businesses could collapse as a result.

It was also disclosed that the CEB currently owed nearly 650 billion rupees as outstanding debt to various parties including banks and electricity suppliers. The Electricity Board representative stated that out of the amount to be paid, nearly Rs. 35 billion were to be paid to the organisations that supplied renewable energy, and 75 billion rupees are to be paid to Thermal power suppliers. Thus, it expects to pay at least part of what it owes the suppliers from the 50-billion-rupee loan to be received. (SF)

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PMD claims President’s response misinterpreted

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe denied recent media reports stating that the Provincial Councils will be replaced with the District Development Committees.

Issuing a press release his media division said President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s response in Parliament on Tuesday has been misinterpreted.

Wickremesinghe’s media Division said that in response to a statement by former President Maithripala Sirisena, the President stated that the District Development Committees (DDCs) would be established within the Provincial Councils.

The DDCs would provide a platform for coordination between thegovernment, the Provincial Councils and the Local Government bodies for all executive decisions, the Media Division said.

“This will ensure the process is not duplicated and will reduce financial wastage. Apart from that, the president has not made any statement about the dissolution of provincial councils.”

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Kumudesh: Top bureaucrat demands service extension from Minister’s daughter to approve shady deal

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A senior official of the Ministry of Health has asked the daughter of a Cabinet Minister to help him obtain a service extension in return for approving a controversial tender for medical supplies, President of the College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) Ravi Kumudesh says.

Kumudesh told The Island yesterday that the Minister’s daughter was working for a company that supplied oxygen generators.

“The official told the Minister’s daughter that he would grant the tender to a company of his choice to ensure a comfortable retirement and if her company wanted to secure the contract he should be given an extension in service.”

Kumudesh said the money for the medical equipment was to be paid through the grants from the Global Fund. The World Bank is a major contributor to the Global Fund.

“Officials can grant these tenders to companies of their choice by changing criteria. They make small technical specifications to ensure that only one company qualifies. These officials are a law unto themselves.”

Health Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.

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