Rajasthan 2023: Change of guard, end of Gehlot-Raje era

NewsDrum Desk
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Ashok gehlot raje

Congress leader Ashok Gehlot and the BJP’s Vasundhara Raje

Jaipur, Dec 30 (PTI) For 25 years, Rajasthan saw just two people occupying the chief minister’s post. Beginning in 1998, when Congress leader Ashok Gehlot became the CM, power alternated between him and the BJP’s Vasundhara Raje.


The state moved on from them on December 15, when Bhajan Lal Sharma was sworn in as the new CM after the Bharatiya Janata Party won the assembly polls –- bagging 115 of the 199 seats on which the elections were held. The Congress got 69.

Raje was seen to be in the race again with several newly elected BJP MLAs calling on her in what appeared to be a show of support. Instead, the party’s top leadership chose low–profile Sharma for the job.

Diya Kumari, a member of Jaipur’s erstwhile royal family, and Prem Chand Bairwa, a Dalit leader, were appointed deputy chief ministers.


Gehlot spent 2023 in trying to ensure that the Congress leadership picked him as the CM choice, should the party win.

The state government’s “mehangai rahat camps” publicised welfare schemes launched by his government, including the sale of cooking gas cylinders for Rs 500 to families under the Ujjwala scheme.

In 2023, his government also enhanced the Chiranjeevi health insurance scheme, offering medical treatment worth Rs 25 lakh per year to its beneficiaries.


But the leadership tussle between Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot continued to sap the party’s strength in the state.

Pilot held protests against “lack of action” against “corruption” during the previous BJP government and over the more recent paper leaks in state government recruitment exams.

He held a day-long fast and also took out a foot march from Ajmer to Jaipur, indirectly targeting the Gehlot government. There was speculation that he might float his own party.


But the party’s top leadership brought about a truce between the two factions ahead of the November elections. Still, Pilot appeared to focus only on a few seats during the campaign.

In the election year, Gehlot faced much opposition flak over crime against women. In Bhilwara, a 14-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped, murdered and her body burnt in a coal furnace. Seven people were arrested.

In Pratapgarh district, a 21-year-old tribal woman was paraded naked by her husband and in-laws, and a disturbing video surfaced online. Gehlot met the victim, who was also offered a government job.


Another sensational crime took place in Jaipur after the elections.

Two assailants shot dead Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena leader Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi in his living room. They also killed an “accomplice” who had helped them gain access to his home in Jaipur.

On Facebook, gangster Rohit Godara, who is linked to the Lawrence Bishnoi gang, claimed responsibility. The attack triggered protests by the Rajput community in several parts of the state.


Coaching hub Kota continued to report suicides by students.

Compared to 15 in the previous year, 26 students killed themselves in 2023, raising concern over the level of stress among young people aspiring for admission to top medical and engineering colleges.

The authorities announced various guidelines for coaching institutes and hostels to break the trend.

These included more time off and regular counselling sessions for students. Even installing spring-loaded ceiling fans was proposed, to make hanging from them “impossible”.

A “red diary” created a buzz.

The episode began with the sacking of Rajendra Gudha as a minister after he attacked his own government over crime against women.

Following his termination, Gudha claimed he possessed a “‘red diary” that he had secured during an income tax raid at the house of Congress leader Dharmendra Rathore. The “diary” was often mentioned by the BJP during the poll campaign, even if its actual existence hasn’t been proven.

Congress leaders like the party’s state unit chief Govind Singh Dotasra and CM’s son Vaibhav Gehlot came under the Enforcement Directorate, prompting the party to accuse the BJP-led Centre of misusing central agencies.

The ED also acted against suspended Rajasthan Public Service Commission member Babu Lal Katara in connection with the paper leak case. Katara was earlier arrested by Rajasthan Police.