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Can Gehlot fill Jaitley's void in Rajya Sabha?

By R Rajagopalan
June 14, 2019 09:32 IST
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Even his critics say Thaawar Chand Gehlot is a man of delivery.
'If a task is assigned, he wins it over with political sagacity,' they say.
R Rajagopalan reports.

IMAGE: Thaawar Chand Gehlot takes charge as Union minister for social justice and empowerment in New Delhi on June 4, 2019. To his left are Ministers of State Krishan Pal Gurjar and Ramdas Athawale. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

Bharatiya Janata Party cadres, newly-elected members of Parliament and New Delhi's political circles all were agog with speculation over the choice of Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot to replace Arun Jaitley as Leader of the Rajya Sabha.

Jaitley, who opted out of the Modi 2.0 Cabinet citing health reasons, had requested the NJP leadership to relieve him of this post as well.

That Gehlot, the 71-year-old member of the Rajya Sabha, enjoys Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi's trust and confidence, is well known.

Not many remember that Gehlot, considered the BJP's Dalit face, was the front-runner to succeed Pranab Mukherjee as President in 2017 before Ram Nath Kovind was sprung by the BJP leadership as its candidate for Rashtrapati.


Those who concluded then that Gehlot did not enjoy Modi or BJP President Amit Anilchandra Shah's confidence have now been proved wrong. That the long-serving member of the BJP's parliamentary board would be elevated to a post commensurate with his experience as an MP was never in doubt.

Even his critics say Gehlot is a man of delivery. "If a task is assigned, he wins it over with political sagacity," they say.

There are a few who doubt if Gehlot can meet the responsibility entrusted to him. But the question is not of his capabilities, but whether he will fill the political vacuum left behind by Jaitley.

Being Leader of the Upper House involves having constant dialogues with the Leader of the Opposition, in this case the Congress's Ghulam Nabi Azad, as well as with the smaller regional parties.

When it comes to crucial bills like Aadhaar, where Jaitley would have won over critics with his legal acumen as well as personal charm, Gehlot may have to invoke the prime minister, at least initially.

But there is a tremendous silver lining on the horizon for Gehlot. Which is that in 2020, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance will have secured a majority in the Raya Sabha, easing the legislative path for the government.

Home Minister Shah was the first to recommend Gehlot to Modi. And the man who lost the first citizen's post finally came to be honoured with the post of Leader of the Rajya Sabha.

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R Rajagopalan in New Delhi