It is hardly a secret that the Opposition is in disarray as the BJP has worked its way to governments all across India. Currently, the BJP-led NDA holds power in no less than 18 states. As the Opposition loses power in one state after another, one place where it is still relevant is in the Upper House where the BJP is still a minority. While there have been accusations against the government of using the money bill route to bypass Rajya Sabha, it still clearly regards the upper chamber as important. This was evidenced by the fact that it will soon send its foremost political operative to bolster its strength in Rajya Sabha.
Amit Shah, the 52-year-old BJP president has been instrumental in the party's expansion across India. A five-time MLA from Gujarat, this will be Shah's first stint in Parliament. This is not too uncommon in the BJP as Nitin Gadkari became an MP from Nagpur in 2014 only after his term as party president ended. Rajnath Singh too was not an MP during his first term but entered Parliament only in 2009 from Ghaziabad, according to The Economic Times.
Livemint has reported that senior leaders of the BJP see this move as ensuring that Shah will be directly involved in policy making and work for the people by representing a state.
This shift in roles is not an insignificant one as while Shah was earlier heavily involved in ensuring that the BJP won state after state, now he could be actively involved in the day-to-day running of the nation. Arun Jaitley holds the position of Leader in the House but his hands are quite full with the finance and defence portfolios. After M Venkaiah Naidu's departure from the House, the BJP leadership in the House is stretched rather thin. Having Shah in the House will relieve Jaitley of some responsibility and allow the party to rally around Shah.
According to The Free Press Journal, the BJP has not done too well in attracting the smaller parties to its fold as they have gravitated towards the Opposition. Jaitley has been able to do little about it but Shah with his sharp political acumen might just be the man to turn the tide and cobble together an alliance of sorts to ease BJP's work in the Rajya Sabha.
Or might the move mean the exact opposite of the scheme outlined above? Could Shah have been drafted into Parliament to become part of Modi's cabinet? Depending on who you choose to believe, Shah could either take over as home minister or the defence minister. A cabinet reshuffle would also certainly make sense as Naidu is no longer in the party and Anil Dave, the former environment minister has passed away. Add to that the fact that Manohar Parrikar was never quite replaced as defence minister and it is clear that the cabinet could certainly use some reinforcements.
There is also a school of thought — put forward by NDTV — which believes that Shah might not want to give up the second-most powerful position as the kingmaker, to become just one of many ministers. He might instead use the public pulpit provided by Rajya Sabha to build a national profile for himself as a hardline BJP leader who can take on the Opposition with aggression and expertise. This course of action will let the BJP keep him as party president as its 'one man, one post' rule will not allow Shah to be both a minister and the party head.
The Modi-Shah duo's decisions have been difficult to foretell as we saw with the left-field pick of Ram Nath Kovind as the NDA's presidential candidate. It is however clear that their political acumen is sharper than anybody's in the business as most of their decisions have yielded benefits for the BJP. The BJP's supporters should then rest easy as having Shah in the Rajya Sabha can only lead to gains for the party. NDTV frames the BJP's mission as thus: it seeks to be the dominant pole of Indian polity and ensure that it has a stake and a presence in all parts of India. Shah's position in Rajya Sabha will allow the BJP to wage war at the final frontier against the Opposition and no longer be reliant on using money bills to pass through its agenda through the legislature.
Updated Date: Jul 28, 2017 15:06:19 IST