After almost two decades, the Congress is all set to see contest for the post of party president. Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor and Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot are the main contenders.
Gehlot is an old hand at this job. The Chief Minister is known as the ‘magician’ in Rajasthan Congress. Son of a magician, he keeps astonishing the world of politics with his magic tricks.
At a conjurors’ convention in 2015 – which he inaugurated by performing a little trick of his own – Gehlot had said he would have followed in his father Lachman Singh Gehlot’s footsteps had he not joined politics.
In his early years in politics, he was called `gilli billi’, a reference to his past when he performed magic on tours as an assistant to his father.
Later, another tag stuck. He started being called Rajasthan’s Gandhi’ for his simple lifestyle and mass connect. After all, he has been at the helm of Congress affairs in the state for years.
Apart from being the CM, he has won a series of Lok Sabha and assembly elections from the state and headed the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee.
He 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 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 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.