It was anything but abracadabra. The Congress decision on Friday to pick the magician’s son as the Rajasthan chief minister was neither quick nor easy.
Deliberations dragged on in Delhi before the party, which defeated the BJP 99-73 in the assembly elections, chose 67-year-old Ashok Gehlot over the youthful Pradesh Congress Committee president Sachin Pilot for the post that both felt they had earned.
Gehlot is an old hand at this job. He first became the state’s chief minister in 1998, the second time in 2008 and is now set to be sworn in for a third stint.
The politician has said magic is in his soul. At a conjurors’ convention in 2015 – which he inaugurated by performing a little trick of his own – Gehlot said he would have followed in his father Lachman Singh’s footsteps had he not joined politics.
This he did thanks to Indira Gandhi, according to some accounts. She is said to have noticed his work with East Bengal refugees, and was impressed.
He headed the Rajasthan unit of the National Students Union of India (NSUI) and was later seen as a staunch loyalist of the Gandhi family.
In his early years in politics, some in the party called him `gilli billi’, a reference to his past when he performed magic on tours as an assistant to his father Lachman Singh Gehlot.
Later, another tag stuck.He started being called Rajasthan’s Gandhi’ for is simple lifestyle and mass connect.
The connect with party leaders, past and present, is said to have come in handy in the recent elections as well.
As the Congress struggled to reach the halfway mark in the assembly, he was reportedly in touch with party rebels who won as independents, and could be called upon to make up the numbers.
After all, he has been at the helm of Congress affairs in the state for years. Apart from being the CM twice earlier, he has won a series of Lok Sabha and assembly elections from the state and headed the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee four times.
Currently an All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary, Gehlot has been deployed by the party in crucial roles at the national level.
He was appointed AICC general secretary in charge of Gujarat just months ahead of last year’s assembly polls.
The Congress didn’t win there but managed to give the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party a big scare in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.
In the recent Karnataka assembly polls, he was there in Bengaluru along with Ghulam Nabi Azad to help stitch together a post-poll coalition with Janata Dal (Secular) to form the government.
After his first proper job in the organisation as NSUI's Rajasthan president from 1974 to 1979, Gehlot went on to become the Jodhpur City Congress Committee president from 1979 to 1982. Then, he was elevated as the state Congress committee's general secretary.
Gehlot was first elected to Parliament in 1980, and went on to win Lok Sabha elections four more times. Since 1999, he has represented the Sardarpura assembly constituency, winning five consecutive terms in the House.
At the Centre, Gehlot has served as a minister of state in the ministries of tourism, civil aviation, sports and textiles, in different stints between 1982 and 1993.
He was also the AICC general secretary in charge of Delhi and the party’s Sewa Dal from 2004-2009 and member of the Congress Working Committee looking after Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
He is married to Sunita Gehlot and has a daughter and a son.
Gehlot is a graduate in science, a postgraduate in economics and has studied law. And then there is magic and old-fashioned politics on his CV.
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