After Shashi Tharoor, a second G-23 leader could be part of the race for the Congress top post — as the “official” candidate”, sources have indicated. Mukul Wasnik, one of the signatories of the explosive letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi in 2020, had, however, distanced himself the group. Not only did he maintain the position of the party General Secretary throughout the controversy, this year, he was even rewarded with a Rajya Sabha seat.
The name came up during the party’s brainstorming sessions after Ashok Gehlot — front-runner in the race — dropped out after rebellion by his loyalists. The episode was seen as “humiliating” for the Congress and had deeply upset the Gandhis.
Sources said efforts are being made to convince Mr Wasnik, who already had a meeting with AK Anthony and will have another meeting with Ashok Gehlot. Tomorrow is the last day for filing nomination.
Shashi Tharoor and Digvijaya Singh have already declared candidature for the election due next month. Unlike his two opponents, Mr Wasnik is known for keeping a low profile.
But that appears a point in his favour. Sources said several Central leaders have reservations about Digvijaya Singh, who is seen by a section as having “too much political baggage and controversies”.
Prior to G-23, Mr Wasnik, 63, had always steered away from controversies. His name had emerged in 2019 among the probables for the Congress top post when Rahul Gandhi stepped down, taking responsibility for the crushing defeat in the general election.
A Dalit from Maharashtra, Mr Wasnik is the son of the late Maharashtra leader and former MP Balkrishna Wasnik.
Sources said he has vast political and administrative experience although he lost elections recently.
As one of the country’s youngest MPs, he had served as Union Minister in the Narasimha Rao government, handling sports, youth affairs and parliamentary affairs portfolios.
During the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh, he was the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment.