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  India   Politics  08 May 2017  Can ‘Gehlot the survivor’ deliver in Gujarat?

Can ‘Gehlot the survivor’ deliver in Gujarat?

THE ASIAN AGE. | ASHHAR KHAN
Published : May 8, 2017, 2:14 am IST
Updated : May 8, 2017, 6:09 am IST

Former Rajasthan CM faces daunting task of reviving Congress in PM Narendra Modi’s home state.

Former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. (Photo: PTI)
 Former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. (Photo: PTI)

For 66 year old Ashok Gehlot, this could be the challenge of his lifetime. Appointed as the Congress in-charge of Gujarat, Mr Gehlot carries a daunting task of steering the sagging political fortune of his party in a state which has seen several reputation being buried under what is BJP’s calling card of “Gujarati Asmita.”

So will Ashok Gehlot make it where others from his party have failed spectacularly? And most importantly, why did the party chose him when despite him being no good orator and no visible charisma? The answer could very well lie in one word — Mr Gehlot is a survivor.

 

Many in the Congress see Mr Gehlot’s appointment as a course correction, albeit too late. His predecessor Gurudas Kamat was well connected, but a political lightweight. Ashok Gehlot carries with him a political career of over 40 years, which has seen him being MP from Jodhpur for 5 terms, chief minister of Rajasthan for two terms and serving in the Cabinet of three Prime Ministers — Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narsimha Rao. Apart from this, his stint as Rajasthan state National Students Union president and Rajasthan Congress chief, makes him a nuts and bolts man, someone who has seen from close quarters of how the organisation works. But what is his biggest asset in the dog-eat-dog world of Congress politics is that he is a Gandhi family loyalist.

 

Also, many claim that Mr Gehlot’s ability to engage with the common man in any walk of life is outstanding. In the 1971 war, he was attending to refugees. He also used to visit hospitals and write postcards to the families of the patients who couldn’t write.

Ashok Gehlot is also no stranger to Gujarat or its politics. His biggest tryst with Gujarat came in 2005 when the Congress organised a 400-km long Gandhi Salt March starting from Sabarmati.

Mr Gehlot was appointed the convenor of the march by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. This ensured that he came into contact with the party leaders at every block level. Congress units from every state in the country were represented in the march and much of the success of it was attributed to Mr Gehlot.

 

When Gujarat was hit by earthquake, he was the chief minister of the neighbouring state. He ensured that relief materials were rushed to the state and also sent Congress cadres from Rajasthan to Gujarat for helping out with rescue and relief operations.

So how is Mr Gehlot going to go about weaning Gujarat away from the indomitable duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah? The answer which his close aides give is that by assimilation. The policy adopted by Mr Gehlot in Gujarat will be that of assimilation and getting the cadre base strong. He has already started the process of making block level committees in the state, which include people from all castes. The other item on the list is ensuring the influential Patidar leader Hardik Patel is on Congress’ side.

 

Born in an ordinary family, Mr Gehlot fought his way through to a successful political career.

Circumnavigating through the internal political maze, Mr Gehlot outsmarted many Congress veterans like Paras Ram Maderna, Ram Niwas Mirdha and Shiv Charan Mathur to become CM of Rajasthan. He earned his spurs by challenging veteran BJP CM Bhairon Singh Shekhawat several times and led many statewide agitations against Mr Shekhawat and the BJP. As CM, he not only banned “Trishul Diksha,” which was being organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, but also never hesitated in arresting VHP president Praveen Togadia.

After the defeat of Congress in Rajasthan in 2003, Ashok Gehlot became the favourite punching bag. His arch rival C.P. Joshi started positioning himself as an alternative to Mr Gehlot and became close to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. But as lady luck would have it for Gehlot, Congress won the 2008 Assembly election but C.P. Joshi lost his own seat by just one vote. This one vote paved the way for Mr Gehlot to have a second shot at the top job.

 

At present, Mr Gehlot is engrossed in a running battle with present Rajasthan Congress chief, 40 year old Sachin Pilot, apart from running an internecine battle with his arch rival C.P. Joshi. Mr Gehlot openly targeted Sachin Pilot after the Congress lost miserably in the recently concluded byelection.

Ashok Gehlot’s career has also had his own share of controversy. A CBI enquiry is currently going on in an ambulance scam. His son Vaibhav’s firm has been facing financial fraud allegation and a complaint has been filed to the Enforcement Directorate. He is also accused of ditching senior leaders whenever he is in power. Several Congress leaders, who shifted to BJP, named Ashok Gehlot as the reason why they switched loyalty. The internal feud was so bad that the high command had to intervene and depute Sachin Pilot as the state chief. But Mr Gehlot has been a survivor. And a magician. What many people don’t know is that Ashok Gehlot learned the tricks of ropes from his father, who was a full time magician. The Congress now hopes that magician Gehlot will conjure a trick and pick a win out of an empty Congress hat.

 

Tags: ashok gehlot, gurudas kamat, rajiv gandhi, narendra modi
Location: India, Rajasthan