Gehlot's populist policies fail to yield dividends

GehlotGehlot's leadership style is said to have turned the Jat community, the most populous caste in the state traditionally voting for Congress, against it. (PTI)

Ashok Gehlot may have the image of a politician with his ears to the ground but his populist policies and programmes have not yielded dividends in the elections in Rajasthan where the ruling Congress suffered a massive defeat.

62-year-old Gehlot's leadership style is said to have turned the Jat community, the most populous caste in the state traditionally voting for Congress, against it.

He became the state's Chief Minister for the first time after the party's victory in 1998 due to what political watchers said was his proximity to the Gandhi family.

It was largely believed that formidable Jat leader Parasram Maderna would be the CM in case of Congress victory but Gehlot pipped him to the coveted post.

Lady luck smiled on him again in 2008 when the then state Congress president CP Joshi lost his seat by only one vote. Joshi is seen as Rahul Gandhi's pick in the state and was the campaign committee president in these elections. Party sources say the high command may rejig the state leadership even as it will be difficult to ignore Gehlot, who comes from an OBC community and is seen as a clean politician.

Gehlot is neither a commanding orator nor does he exude the charm of his principal rival Vasundhara Raje of BJP, but he is a skillful politician who has built on his humble origin and backward caste lineage to project himself as the leader of "aam aadmi".

He was admired for his administrative acumen and had launched a slew of populist schemes to prepare his party for its bid to retain power and toned up the administration. But the loss of power means that his leadership would be under the scanner now.

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