He may be low-profile and simple but senior Congress leader and former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s political astuteness cannot be doubted. This was evident last week when he outwitted his younger colleague, Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot and surprised everyone by announcing that they would both be contesting next month’s Assembly polls in Rajasthan. Mr Gehlot and Mr Pilot are in the race for the chief minister’s post in case the Congress succeeds in overthrowing the Vasundhara Raje government. The sub-text of Mr Gehlot’s declaration is that the two leaders will have to prove themselves in the electoral arena to get a shot at power. Here, the senior Congress leader has a distinct advantage over Mr Pilot. Mr Gehlot has had a long inning in politics, has served on important positions in the party organisation, has done a stint as a Central minister and has been a chief minister. He has been winning successively from his constituency in Jodhpur, is well regarded by the people and has a strong support base among party workers. Mr Pilot, on the other hand, is young, energetic and articulate but has never contested an Assembly election, having served two terms in the Lok Sabha. The guessing game is on: Will experience prevail over GenNext or vice versa?
Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the three-term chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, is battling hard to return to power for a record fourth time. Faced with an unprecedented rebellion in its ranks, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s state unit was forced to expel over 60 members including several senior leaders for anti-party activity. Mr Chouhan’s wife Sadhna Singh faced a hostile crowd last week when she went to campaign for her husband in his Assembly constituency Budhni. Having launched his election campaign well in advance with his trademark rath yatras, Mr Chouhan appears to have peaked early. Above all, the affable chief minister is waging a lone battle, getting little help from his senior party colleagues. Central ministers, including Sushma Swaraj and Uma Bharati, have barely been seen in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, though they are from the state and are known to be powerful orators. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not campaigned as vigorously as he did in Gujarat and Karnataka since he has been busy with important international commitments. However, there is some good news for Mr Chouhan as PM Modi is set to address a string of public meetings in the coming days. With very little time left for the November 28 Madhya Pradesh election, Mr Chouhan is banking on PM Modi’s whirlwind tours to help him coast past the finish line.