A positive takeaway from Gujarat polls for the two-time Rajasthan chief minister will help resurrect his political stature.
Jaipur: The just-concluded bitter contest for Gujarat Assembly has given Congress veteran Ashok Gehlot, party in-charge of the state, some reason to rejoice as he looks to share the credit for the run for money given by his party to the ruling BJP.
As the results of Gujarat elections come in on Monday, the former chief minister of Rajasthan will reap rich dividends even if his party fails to pull off a miracle win.
The exit polls have predicted a BJP win but an improved tally for the Congress from last Assembly's 61 will surely earn Mr Gehlot laurels who has been experiencing political obscurity after losing the Rajasthan Assembly polls in 2013.
A positive takeaway from Gujarat polls for the two-time Rajasthan chief minister will help resurrect his political stature. It will also help him to be in the reckoning to lead the party in his home state's Assembly elections due next year.
Notwithstanding, the worst ever defeat managing only 21 seats in 2013, the 66-year-old leader remains the most popular face of the party in Rajasthan.
Also, he has already got his reward during the Gujarat polls by getting enough time to spend with party chief Rahul Gandhi known to be more inclined towards young leaders like Sachin Pilot.
Sources said Mr Gehlot's duty in Gujarat and earlier assignment in Punjab as chairman of screening committee was more to keep him off the back of Mr Pilot, who is considered to be a confidant of Mr Gandhi.
However, the Gujarat assignment gave the wily politician, a chance to understand Mr Gandhi's style of functioning. The camaraderie between Mr Gandhi and Mr Gehlot during the Gujarat campaign was there for all to see.
Moreover, Mr Gehlot is aware that no one within the party can single him out for the failure of the Congress to wrest power from the BJP in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Till two months ago every opinion poll predicted a landslide victory for the BJP but Mr Gandhi's efforst and Mr Gehlot's efforts made it an uphill task for the ruling party in the final lap.
To Mr Gehlot's credit, for the first time in two decades the Congress is gave the BJP a run for its money.
Of course, there was a strong undercurrent against the ruling BJp in Gujarat, fuelled by the Patidar agitation, demonetisation and the GST woes. The Congress tried to cash in on these with the help of three young turks - Hardik Patel, the head of Patidar agitation; OBC leader Alpesh Thakore and champion of dalit cause Jignesh Mevani. However, it remains to be seen on Monday if the Congress move of bringing all three of them, representing communities whose interests are at odds with each other, on the same platform really helped or not.
In fact, right from Ahmed Patel's Rajya Sabha election in August, Mr Gehlot brought put all his experience into use during tricky situations in the Gujarat Assemby polls. It was he who ensured that the Congress tackled with rebel Shankersinh Vaghela with a tough hand rather than dancing to his tunes.
While Mr Gandhi was is the face of the party in the Congress, Mr Ahmed Patel was the back-stage strategist and Mr Gehlot who is leading the troops on the ground and executing all the plans.
From taking Mr Gandhi on temple trips across the state to clear the perception of Congress being an anti-Hindu party and door to door campaigning, Mr Gehlot's hand was visible everywhere. He had brought a dedicated team of his loyalists from Rajasthan to handle the campaigning in the field.
Mr Gehlot's political acumen to overcome complex situations and hardwork infused life into the party at the grass root level in Gujarat and all this surely has not gone unnoticed.
Just as he did in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, Mr Gehlot seems to have proved to Mr Gandhi that he may repose faith in his experience to wrest take on the BJP.
So, when everyone will be keen to know the election results on Monday, Mr Gehlot can afford to relax having redeemed himself politically during the gruelling Gujarat campaign over the past few months.