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2nd time CM Gehlot, a grassroots man

india Updated: Dec 11, 2008 21:34 IST
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Self-effacing and a grassroots man, Ashok Gehlot worked untiringly for rebuilding the party from a scratch since 2003 when it was ousted from power in Rajasthan where caste rivalries sought to redraw political equations like never before in the recent past.

In 2003, Gehlot was accused of being "single-handedly" responsible for the worst electoral defeat of the Congress since 1952 general elections when BJP got its highest number of 120 seats in the Assembly in Rajasthan in 2003. The Congress was then reduced to 55.

But that did not deter him from going ahead with his campaign against the BJP and rebuilding the party at a time when the sizeable Jat community was flexing its muscles and the BJP government appeared to give in to it demands, especially on reservation.
And that is why, observers believe, that when the time came for deciding who would don the mantle, the party plumped for Gehlot.

As chief minister, 57-year-old Gehlot brings vast administrative and political experience gained during nearly 40 years in politics.

Born on May 3, 1951, he became chief minister of Rajasthan for the first time in 1998 riding a strong anti-incumbency wave symbolised by the 'onion crisis'.

Out of power since 2003, the party had made him the General Secretary at the AICC and gave him charge of Delhi where there was serious dissension against Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit.

Gehlot, who belongs to the backward 'mali' (gardener) community, is a hard-core organisation man. Between 1974 and 79, he was president of the Rajasthan unit of NSUI and rose steadily as President of Jodhpur Congress Committee and then General Secretary of the PCC. He became the PCC President thrice in 1985, 1994 and 1997.

In 1980, he was elected to Lok Sabha for the first time from Jodhpur and reelected four more times. He became a Union Deputy Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Indira Gandhi's ministry in 1982. After the 1984 elections, he became the Minister of State for Civil Aviation when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister.

Gehlot held independent charge of the Textiles ministry in the P V Narasimha Rao government from 1991.

He has been a member of various Parliamentary committees including that of Public Accounts Committee.

In the recent Assembly elections, he won from Sadarpura constituency.

His supporters say that Gehlot remains a man of good intentions, who retained the common touch and did not lose contact with the people despite walking the corridors of power in Delhi.