Sunday, December 3, 2023
HomerajasthanShanti Dhariwal: Ashok Gehlot's Man Friday

Shanti Dhariwal: Ashok Gehlot's Man Friday

Jaipur: Managerial guru Henry Mintzberg once said “Management is after all, a practice where art, science and craft meet.” And Rajasthan politician Shanti Dhariwal, the most astute manager for Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, practices all of these, and laces them up with a bit of smart politicking.

Dhariwal, 80, is the Man Friday for Gehlot. He incurred the wrath of the Congress High Command when he went out of the way to help his long time associate Gehlot. He never bothered that the move might jeopardise his own career. Sources say he even wanted to hang his boots this time and instead wanted the ticket for his son.

Last year Dhariwal took it upon himself to urge 80 MLAs, all part of the Gehlot camp, to not attend the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meet in September, which was to decide their new leader if Gehlot moved to Delhi to take over the Congress presidency. Gehlot was not interested in moving to Delhi, so Dhariwal managed the whole show on his behalf.

Even the grand old party’s central observers, Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge, had to return empty-handed and consequently, hopes of Sachin Pilot succeeding Gehlot were dashed. Although political observers say the whole drama was conceptualised by Gehlot himself, it had to be finely executed by an able director. And Gehlot trusted no one other than Dhariwal, his lieutenant—it required a finesse, a skill, and a political acumen which only his long-time confidante possesses.

The Congress High Command has been angry with Kota’s big man since then, refusing to accommodate him in the Congress list. Gehlot had three names, over which objections were being raised: Dhariwal, Mahesh Joshi and Dharmendra Rathore. Although Gehlot lobbied for all three, it was only Dhariwal, who got the ticket. Pollsters say Gehlot probably would not budge unless Dhariwal was accepted because he owed the 80-year-old for helping him continue as the Chief Minister, almost a second life.

“Congress High Command could not refuse Dhariwal’s ticket because it would have sent wrong signals to the electorate. With Gehlot as the party’s chief ministerial face more than obvious, despite protestations by Sachin Pilot, axing Dhariwal would certainly have been a setback for the state Congress unit and for Gehlot. Congress could not afford to antagonise Gehlot at this moment,” veteran political analyst Narayan Bareth told Deccan Herald.

Gehlot and Dhariwal go back a long way. Dhariwal has been a minister in every tenure of Gehlot, getting important portfolios of Urban Development, Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Local Self government.

Hailing from Kota and a political family, his father Rakivchand Dhariwal was industry minister in the Congress government earlier. Shanti Dhariwal was the the MP from Kota from 1984 to 1989. In 1993, he became a MLA from Hindoli in Bundi district. He was groomed by Congress stalwart and Brahmin leader Nawal Kishore Sharma from Dausa, who was known as the giant killer in politics.

Later, Dhariwal teamed up with Gehlot when he was asked to contest from Kota. While he was initially hesitant, facing the likes of BJP strongman Lalit Kishore Chaturvedi, Gehlot assured him a ticket. From then on, the mutual trust and reliance between the two only grew stronger.

During one debate in the House, when BJP leader Gulab Chand Kataria had spoken of corruption in Sahakari Sangh, Dhariwal is supposed to have supported the move against Sahakari Sangh, and had added lightly that “actually all organisations with ‘Sangh’ in them should be brought under investigation.” This, perhaps unexpectedly, created a ruckus in the House, which went on for two hours. Dhariwal, however, with his sharp sense of humour, had a field day.

Dhariwal is also supposed to have transformed Kota into a modern city with excellent infrastructure and facilities. Helming the Urban Development ministry, he can get things moving and is a good deal maker. In the Vidhan Sabha, he is an apt floor manager, other than being articulate, outspoken and fearless. A fearless and independent personality, he also used to take morning walks all alone in Jaipur’s Polo Club, with no aides or bodyguards.

(Published 08 November 2023, 11:03 IST)

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