New Delhi [India] Dec 13 (ANI): Ashok Gehlot, a seasoned politician and a Congress loyalist, is in the driver's seat once again in Rajasthan as he became the Chief Minister of the state for the third time on December 14. It is a reward for his organisational skills and swift balancing act through which he got all factions on board.
His acumen in setting the chess board within the organisation in a win-win style was witnessed not only in Rajasthan Assembly elections but also gave a tough fight to the Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat in 2017.
This was no magic wand that the 67-year-old waved this time, something which he otherwise enjoys, being the son of a magician. It is learnt that he has staged performances earlier also as a magician and has shown some tricks to Rahul Gandhi when the Congress president was a child.
With Sachin Pilot's hard work on the ground during last four years, Gehlot only needed to put his deep political insight to use which led the party to perform better in Rajasthan than in Madhya Pradesh, where the Congress has won only by a wafer-thin margin.
For Gehlot, the challenge starts now with 2019 Lok Sabha elections coming close. Since he has ruled the state for two terms in 1998-2003 and 2008-2013, and is an experienced hand who understands the political nuances better, it is hoped that Gehlot will be able to consolidate the vote base further for the party.
Upheaval as it may be, Gehlot will have to manage the Jat vote base since his earlier experience with the community has been bitter. Jats dominate in around 11 out of 25 Lok Sabha constituencies in western Rajasthan, including Bharatpur, on the eastern side and it is speculated that caste rivalry will once again play a big role in the coming General elections.
Gehlot belongs to Mali community and both, Jats and Malis fall in the Other Backward Class (OBC) category. In Rajasthan, Jats are about 15 per cent, Gujjars 5-6 per cent and Malis around 3 per cent.
The Jat-Mali rivalry was witnessed even in 1998 when Gehlot was made the Chief Minister despite the popular perception that the-then Pradesh Congress Committee president (late) Parasram Maderna would hold the office. The Jats avenged the humility in 2004 Lok Sabha polls when Congress won only four seats out of 25.
Although Maderna's granddaughter, Divya was given ticket this time from a traditional seat of the Madernas in Jodhpur, the home district of Gehlot and Divya won the seat which turned out to be a masterstroke played by Gehlot.
Observers, however, say that even in this election, Congress could have comfortably taken up the tally to around 120 had ticket distribution, especially in the second list been done more judiciously. There are murmurs within the Congress party too that it lost a golden opportunity.
The party has a huge task ahead. Having not made Pilot the Chief Minister who was made to shift base to Rajasthan to build the party there, it is now to be seen how his community 'Gujjar' would react in 2019. It will be up to Gehlot now how he manages to pacify the community.
Gehlot, the general secretary of the party, enjoyed being the third-in-command after Rahul Gandhi and the treasurer Ahmed Patel at Akbar Road. General elections of 2019 will now be an acid test for the Chief Minister.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)