Ashok Gehlot was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Rajasthan recently. This was his second term as CM, the first one ending in 2003 when the Vasundhara Raje led
BJP stormed to power. Had Gehlot not been lucky in politics, he might have
ended up as a magician. His father, Babu Laxman Singh Gehlot, was a renowned magician and young Ashok accompanied him on several trips, learning, in the process,
some tricks. But Ashok never wanted to become one like his father. He was keen to be a doctor, but ended up as a student of economics.
His entry into politics was just by chance. Indira Gandhi had visited Jodhpur soon after the
Bangladesh war and Gehlot was among the crowd gathered to cheer her. He virtually jumped
before her yelling "Madam, see this, listen to us" in his effort to draw her attention to the
plight of Bangladesh refugees.
Indira Gandhi turned back and exchanged a few words with 20-year-old Ashok. She was
impressed by the young man's determination, confidence and dedication for a cause. This
was the turning point in Gehlot's life; he took a plunge into the uncertain world of politics
and became president of the Rajasthan unit of NSUI in 1974.
His first break came in 1980 when he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Jodhpur. He became
the youngest MP when he was only 29. Indira Gandhi inducted the young man from
Rajasthan in her government as Deputy Minister in 1982. The people of Jodhpur elected him
in 1984, 1991, 1996 and 1998 general elections. He was defeated once by Jaswant Singh of
the BJP. Besides a ministerial stint in the Indira Gandhi government, Gehlot was a member of
the Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao governments as well.
Gehlot does not have house of his own; nor does he own a car. He knows some of the tricks
of the trade that he has learnt from his father and uses them to collect funds for welfare
While in 1996 the Congress swept to power with 156 seats under Gehlot's leadership, it was
down to 56 in 2003. Vasundhara Raje was crowned the undisputed leader with 120 seats in
the BJP's bag. In addition, there were charges flying thick and fast that Gehlot's Cabinet was
packed with corrupt people. But no one accused Gehlot of corruption. His image remained
that of 'Mr Clean' and it remains so as he became the Chief Minister for the second time.