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It is only once in five years that 8, Civil Lines, is so quiet and deserted. The sprawling garden that bustles with hundreds of visitors calling on the chief minister with sundry requests has the gardener ploughing in peace and the household staff basking in the warm morning sun. But the calmness is only on the surface. A lingering uneasiness prevails as every member discusses the myriad exit polls that have been anything but encouraging.
The man at the centre of it all, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, fights it back with mock amusement, "These opinion polls are such a farce. Last time they predicted we would not come to power and we did. In 2003 they said with full confidence that we would get 156 seats and we got 56. Such a joke!"
This Ashok Gehlot is rarely seen — laidback, chatty and listless — whether due to the fatigue post months of hectic electioneering or resignation to the heart-breaking predictions. But wife Sunita has seen many a defeat and is not one to expect that a loss would mean seeing more of her husband at home. "Rajneeti mein haar-jeet chalti rehti hai (Winning and losing is part of politics)," she says. "Whatever Sunday brings, we will take it in our stride, and Monday onwards, work for the Lok Sabha elections will start," Gehlot concurs. "There will be no looking back."
"I have honestly given my 100 per cent. If we still do not make it, there is nothing to regret. Such is democracy. But my calculations after the feedback meetings say we will touch 95 (out of the 199 seats that went to polls)," he adds.
Even as he puts up a stoic front, Gehlot confesses he worries about the schemes that he hand-crafted and nurtured — the free medicine scheme, the pension scheme and the metro rail — projects that will always be known as his gifts to the state.
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