Ashok Gehlot, the son of a magician, once stated that if he hadn’t entered politics, he would just have followed in his father’s footsteps.
At 71, the highly experienced Congressman has accomplished it all:
– Student leader
– State party president
– Lok Sabha MP
– Union minister
– Rajasthan chief minister for the third time
In Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot is known for outmaneuvering his critics in a way that they do not even notice.
The man, born into a family of professional magicians, is credited with using political magic to become the state’s tallest Congress leader in the last 25 years.
Since 1998, the top job in the Rajasthan government has been the prize in a musical chairs game between Gehlot and Vasundhara Raje. Each has twice succeeded the other.
Ashok Gehlot, born in Jodhpur’s Mahamandir, ran the Congress student wing’s Rajasthan unit in his initial political career. He was first elected to the Parliament in 1980 when he was in his twenties and later served as a minister of state on several occasions.
However, political manoeuvring is not the only characteristic of the man who has been involved in politics for the past 40 + years. He is skilled at defusing crises through dialogue.
When Kirori Singh Bainsla came to the chief minister’s office for talks during the Gujjar agitation, he presented him with a picture of Martin Luther King Jr and urged him to maintain peace at all costs.
Gehlot has been assigned important roles at the national scale by his party. When Karnataka’s assembly elections were held in May, he and fellow Congressman Ghulam Nabi Azad were in Bengaluru to help form a post-election coalition with the Janata Dal (Secular).
According to some accounts, Gehlot entered politics after Indira Gandhi started to notice his work with refugees in the Northeast and recruited him.
Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi chose Gehlot for active politics after seeing him work in a refugee camp in 1971. In 1974, she appointed him the first state president of the National Students Union of India (NSUI), Congress’ students’ wing.
Gehlot ran unsuccessfully in the students’ union election and lost his first assembly election. He went to the market the next day to thank those who had voted for him.
However, another college friend who did not want to be identified recalls Gehlot frequently visiting hospitals and writing letters to the families of patients about their recovery.
In 1980, he was elected to the Lok Sabha. Two years later, when he was about to take his vow as a deputy minister in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet, he was stopped by security at the Rashtrapati Bhawan because he arrived in an auto-rickshaw. Gehlot was only allowed to leave after displaying his Lok Sabha identity card.
Gehlot has been a Gandhian since high school. He always keeps Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. photos in his office and even installed a Gandhi bust in the Secretariat when he became CM for the first time in 1998 conveyed Prakash Bhandari, who met Gehlot in a Jodhpur college in the early 1970s.
As a New Year’s gift, Gehlot’s office has sent out a Gandhi diary to friends, bureaucrats, and news reporters every year. He is opposed to all forms of intoxication and has advocated for liquor prohibition since his days as a member of the social organization Tarun Shanti Sena picketing outside liquor stores in Jodhpur.
His simple lifestyle and wide appeal have been dubbed “Rajasthan’s Gandhi.” Can Chief Minister Gehlot now conjure up enough magic to appease the voters who ousted the BJP? This is a question that comes up in everybody’s mind.
Gehlot was unable to implement prohibition during his two terms as chief minister. Still, during his previous tenure (2008-2013), he decided to order the closure of liquor stores at 8 p.m., even though it cost the government a significant amount of excise revenue. This was an order that even Vasundhara Raje could not overturn when she took over as CM the following term.
He was a member of the Member of Parliament in 1984, 1991, 1996, and 1998. After being appointed chief minister in 1998, he was elected to the Rajasthan legislature in a by-election. Gehlot served as the state Congress unit’s president from 1985 to 1989 and 1994 to 1999.
According to old Congress leaders, Gehlot removed his surname in protest of the caste system. There was a time when he changed his name to Ashok Bhai to protest against the caste hierarchy. Still, he soon gave it up when people started saying it was a cheap trick to become chief minister of Rajasthan, although this was his way of showing solidarity and support.
Gehlot is best known for drought relief during his first term, from 1998 to 2003, which served as the foundation for the country-wide National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. He is also credited with introducing a right-to-information law before it becomes national law.
The free medicine and diagnostic test schemes of his second tenure (2008-2013) are remembered fondly. Still, critics say they were largely seen as a last-minute effort to improve his government’s sagging image.
In 2013, Congress suffered its worst defeat in the history of state elections of Rajasthan, winning only 21 seats out of a total of 200 members. Gehlot was then appointed General Secretary of the AICC in 2013.
He held the position until 2018, when the Congress returned to power in Rajasthan, and despite the strong candidacy of Sachin Pilot, he was appointed as Chief Minister for the third time due to his role in the revival of the Congress after perhaps the worst defeat in Legislative Elections. Sachin Pilot was named the Deputy Chief Minister.
In the ongoing tenure of Ashok Gehlot as a 3rd time Chief Minister of India’s largest state he has provided social welfare schemes to the whole population like no other state in India has ever done, the Chiranjivi Swasthya Beema Yojana provides 10 lakh INR insurance cover to the enitre state population. Apart from this the RGHS scheme and Old Pension scheme brought back by the Ashok Gehlot govt are the highlights of his good governance model.
Ashok Gehlot is not only one of the most prominent members of the All India National Congress, but Ashok Gehlot is also the voice of the common people. He is a force to reckon with. Ashok Gehlot’s presence in the Congress party undoubtedly works as a confidence booster for the party. The upcoming state budget that will be presented by CM Gehlot will be focused on youth welfare schemes, he himself is taking up the issue of youth empowerment since months and has taken inputs from different stakeholders so that a youth oriented budget can be given to the state in Feb 2023.
Ashok Gehlot is an institution in himself for politicians and political aspirants, be it political moves on the power board or social welfare Ashok Gehlot is a master of all facets.