Ashok Gehlot’s win from the Sardarpura assembly constituency in Rajasthan was a bittersweet one as he was dethroned as Chief Minister as BJP registered a thumping victory. The state continued the trend of voting out the sitting government, and the 72-year-old’s political future now hangs in the balance.
The BJP has crossed the halfway mark in Rajasthan and is currently leading on 115 seats, while the Congress is ahead 70, the leads show.
Mr Gehlot, taking a book from BJP’s playbook, had gone all out to promote the welfare schemes of his government. The Janata clinics, modelled after the Mohalla clinics in Delhi, and an universal health insurance were some of the schemes Mr Gehlot was banking on to win a second consecutive term. Leaving no stone unturned, Congress’ top leaders held rallies across the state in the past month to compliment the publicity blitzkrieg.
But one factor that might have hurt the party and Mr Gehlot was his tussle with former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot. The infighting between the two camps had almost toppled the state government in 2020.
Ahead of this election, Mr Pilot issued a “forgive and forget” statement, making it clear he has buried the hatchet with Mr Gehlot and that he had done so on the advice of party boss Mallikarjun Kharge. But the BJP was up to the challenge and is all set to form the government with a clear majority.
After early trends gave BJP the edge, Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat took a jibe at Mr Gehlot saying that the people of Rajasthan have come out of the spell of the ‘magician’. Mr Gehlot was born into a family of magicians and assisted his father during his tours.
In recent years, his influence within the Congress has steadily grown, and he has displayed that he has a loyal base within the party by resisting multiple attempts at a leadership change in Rajasthan. But today’s result is bound to raise questions on whether the leader still has it in him to rally the Congress to a win against the BJP.