POLITICS

Congress reposes faith in Gehlot’s magic touch

Taking over the mantle of Rajasthan’s CM for the 3rd time in 20 years, Ashok Gehlot is self-effacing but has a sharp, political mind. Known for his honesty, his austere lifestyle sets him apart

NH Photo by Pramod Pushkarna

Prakash Bhandari

Ashok Gehlot was the chief minister when his daughter got married. The wedding was a simple affair and the CM invited only family members and friends. And the family went to the Railway Station to see off the bride and the groom the next day. Family friends recall that the chief minister personally ensured that everyone had a Platform ticket.

His honesty and simplicity, his austere lifestyle are stuff of legends. It is said he arrived at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in an autorickshaw in 1980 to take oath as a minister of state. Security men would not let him in till he fished out his identification papers issued by the Lok Sabha.

Every year Gehlot’s office distributes a ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ diary with his new year’s greetings. Inspired by Gandhian ideals, portraits of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Soft-spoken, affable and accessible, he has the remarkable ability to break security cordons and reach out to acquaintances. “Even when he was chief minister earlier, he had this ability to strike up casual conversations with shopkeepers and security guards.

Indeed, people recall him dropping his surname ‘Gehlot’ which identifies him as someone from the ‘Mali’ community. For quite some time he went around under the name, ‘Ashok Bhai’. He reverted to his full name sung by criticism that he was resorting to gimmicks in a bid to corner the limelight.

One of the youngest persons to head the state unit of the party ( he became PCC chief at the age of 34, compared to Sachin Pilot who was entrusted the job at the age of 36), he has been elected to the Lok Sabha four times and remarkably is taking over as the chief minister for the third time in 20 years.

Born into a professional magicians’ family, Ashok Gehlot wanted to become a doctor but failed to clear the entrance test. He went on to become a science graduate and did his postgraduation in economics and then law at Jai Narayan Vyas University.

Following the influx of refugees from the then East Pakistan, the young man from Jodhpur went to work in the refugee camp, where he happened to meet he then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Thereafter, although he enrolled as a lawyer in Jodhpur, the political bug had bitten him and he began frequenting the national capital. His friends would pool in money to buy second class train tickets for him.

Mohan Lal Sukhadia was Chief Minister of Rajasthan for 14 years and was elected as Chief Minister on four occasions. Harideo Joshi also served as Chief Minister on three occasions but served for merely five and a half years. BJP’s Bhairon Singh Shekhawat became the Chief minister thrice and served for a period of 10 years and three months.

If Gehlot completes his third term, he would become the longest serving Chief Minister of the state after having completed two full terms earlier.

For all the latest India News, Follow India Section.