Veteran Congress leader Ashok Gehlot took over as Rajasthan Chief Minister on Monday morning.
Sachin Pilot, who had assiduously rebuilt the party organisation as state Congress chief, was sworn in as the Deputy Chief Minister at a ceremony in state capital Jaipur.
The CM-Deputy CM formula was decided upon on Friday, after two days of hectic consultations between Congress president Rahul Gandhi and senior leaders in New Delhi.
Pilot had been appointed to head the state unit of the Congress after the poll debacle in 2013. The 41-year-old leader had assiduously rebuilt the party organisation and motivated the party cadre, crisscrossing Rajasthan over the past five years.
After the Congress achieved a majority, his supporters maintained that it was Pilot’s painstaking efforts that had resurrected party in the state.
But with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections just months away, seasoned politician Ashok Gehlot got the party leadership’s nod. With Pilot in no mood to give up so easily, a “power-sharing” formula had to be worked out to keep both the leaders happy.
Who Is Ashok Gehlot?
The low-profile Gehlot, often referred to as ‘Rajasthan’s Gandhi’, has been the state’s Chief Minister twice in the past. This is his third term.
He is seen as a leader who has the experience and tact to lead Rajasthan into the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
With the Congress getting a slim majority along with ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), his rapport with other parties was talked about as a big plus point in his favour.
A case in point is the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) with six seats that has extended its support to the Congress to form a government. The number of Independent candidates who won stands at 13.
Born on 3 May, 1951 at Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot comes from a gardener community. He is a graduate in Science and Law with a Master’s degree in Economics.
During the 1971 Indo-Pak War and creation of Bangladesh, Gehlot had served in the refugee camps at various places such as Bangaon and 24 Parganas districts in West Bengal.
Later in 1974, he was appointed as the president of the National Student Union of India (NSUI) of the state.
Gehlot was elected to the 7th Lok Sabha from Jodhpur parliamentary constituency in 1980 for the first time. He further represented the constituency in the 8th, 10th, 11th and 12th Lok Sabha.
He was a member of the union cabinet and held ministries like Tourism, Sports, Communication, Railways and External affairs before he became Chief Minister of Rajasthan in 1998.
When the Congress won again in 2008, Gehlot was chosen to head the government again.
Closer Than Expected
Rajasthan, incidentally, was one state where most observers – and exit polls – had predicted a comfortable victory for the Congress.
As counting progressed last Tuesday, it became that it was going to be no cakewalk for the party that was looking at a reversal of fortunes after being routed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2013.
25-Year Pattern Still In Play
Rajasthan has not voted a government back to power for a second successive term since 1983. The Congress and the BJP have taken turns to form the government in the state.
The voters did not seem to be in a hurry to do something different this time. To the BJP’s credit, however, it managed to put up a brave fight and finished with 73 seats.
Though this was less than half the number it had won the last time, it was not a rout like the one that the Congress had experienced in 2013.