All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Ashok Gehlot (57) is likely to become the next chief minister of Rajasthan. A soft-spoken politician with a squeaky clean image, he is part of a rare, almost extinct breed — a Gandhian Congressman.
Asked about the possibility of him assuming the top job in the state, which he held from 1998 to 2003, Gehlot said: “I will abide by the decision of the high command. In the Congress, we have an established procedure of consulting the MLAs prior to electing chief ministers.”
Typical Congress-speak? Perhaps, but it is also in keeping with Gehlot’s character. He is known to be a cautious man who likes to keep his cards close to his chest — this keeps people guessing about his game plan.
Incidentally, most of his rivals for the position of chief minister — among them Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief CP Joshi, former state party president B.D. Kalla and senior Jat leaders Harendra Mirdha and Narayan Singh have lost the elections. The Congress had not projected any chief ministerial candidate prior to the elections.
Gehlot, perhaps anticipating a hung assembly, had been in touch with Congress rebels and candidates of other parties since December 4, the day the last round of polling took place. “We will form the government with the help of those parties that believe in our principles and ideology,” he said.
The AICC general secretary, who hails from a modest background, joined the Youth Congress during his college days and has worked his way up from the ranks. Appointed president of the Rajasthan PCC for the first time in 1985, he held the position again in 1994 and 1997.
He has also served as a minister in the governments of Indira Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao.
Despite his gentle demeanour, Gehlot has proved time and again that he is a tough man. In the past, he has dropped ministers tainted by the slightest hint of corruption.
It is this combination of administrative acumen and honest image that is likely to propel him to the chief minister’s chair for the second time.