New Delhi: Counting for the Gujarat Assembly elections will be held on Monday and keeping a close watch will be neighbouring Rajasthan.
For, this time, both the Congress and the BJP banked on two Rajasthanis to lead their charge.
While the Congress picked Ashok Gehlot, a 66-year-old veteran politician from Jodhpur and two-time Rajasthan CM, the BJP gave the campaign reins to Bhupender Yadav, its 48-year-old parliamentarian from Ajmer.
Both these men have the ear of their party's respective top brass. Gehlot is said to be close to Ahmed Patel — the second most important person in the Congress after the Gandhi family, while Yadav is a trusted aide of BJP chief Amit Shah.
Both Gehlot and Yadav, have served as members of various Parliamentary Standing Committees and both hold key positions in the central leadership of their respective parties — as national general secretaries. They are known to have strong organisational skills, adept at getting the caste equations right and juggling egos of various leaders.
Yadav proved his mettle in the 2014 Jharkhand Assembly elections, where he was a joint in-charge. Under his leadership, the BJP formed a majority government for the first time since the state's formation. He later delivered mixed results for his party in Bihar, but bounced back to play an instrumental role in the party's mammoth victory in Uttar Pradesh elections this year.
Gehlot, on the other hand, ensured his party's triumph twice in Rajasthan and recently headed the screening committee for Punjab Assembly elections, where the Congress won a comfortable majority.
These similarities aside, the careers of both the political leaders intersect at interesting junctures.
Gehlot is said to have been appointed as the Gujarat in-charge owing, partly, to his turf war with Sachin Pilot. It is said that Gehlot was moved to Gujarat to allow Sachin Pilot his way in Rajasthan for some time.
A respectable performance by Gehlot in Gujarat will cement his position not just in national politics, but in his home state as well to emerge as a challenger to CM Vasundhara Raje.
For Bhupender Yadav, who has risen to great heights within his party in a short span, another comfortable win for the BJP may cement his position further in the central leadership. The BJP has been trying to project and nurture Yadav as an OBC face in the Hindi heartland.
The outcome of elections today, therefore, will decide the future of the 4.35 crore-strong Gujarat electorate and two Rajasthanis.