On 27 September, 2012, a sense of jubilation enveloped the BJP National Executive meet at scenic Surajkund in Delhi’s National Capital Region. The news had just broken that the Supreme Court had lifted its ban that kept Amit Shah out of Gujarat.
What made the news even more exciting was that the exiled leader, considered a key strategist for Narendra Modi could not only return to Gujarat, but could also participate in the assembly elections, which was only two months away. One need not stress the importance of 2012 Gujarat Assembly election and how it was linked with Modi’s future prospects.
Shah was the youngest minister in the Modi government when he was first inducted in 2003, a most promising young leader who had won Assembly elections with unheard of margins (1.58 lakh and 2.35 lakh) in the two prior elections from the Sarkhej seat.
The court order had an immediate bearing on BJP’s organisational structure. The party had kept the post of general secretary vacant for Amit Shah waiting only to see which way the Supreme Court’s upcoming verdict might go. That general secretary seat had fallen vacant due to resignation of Ravi Shankar Prasad who had been made deputy leader of the party in Rajya Sabha. In influential party circles. it was believe that Prasad was moved by design to a parliamentary party post, so created space for Shah.
Armed with a favorable court order, Shah made a brief appearance at Surajkund meet and then departed for his cherished home state. He couldn’t wait any longer.
Shah was to return to Ahmedabad after a gap of two years, after 31 October, 2010, when the Supreme Court had exiled him out of Gujarat until further orders, to ensure that he couldn’t influence the trial in the alleged Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. In less than 24 hours, he moved out of Gujarat to Delhi and made a first floor room in Gujarat Bhawan in the Chankayapuri area as his temporary home.
No one then could have imagined the twist in the tale would be so momentous and so defining in in next few years he would become India’s second most powerful person.
To Shah’s credit his road to fame and glory never came easy. He earned it hard ways for himself. His boss Narendra Modi’s unflinching trust and confidence in him kept him moving. Shah didn’t waste his forced stay in Delhi and other parts of the country outside of Gujarat as a dejected person but this as an opportunity and challenge. In Delhi Arun Jaitley’s Kailash colony home and Parliament House office were his outposts. He would meet with leaders and workers go to states, do personal research on case against him and dig out how Congress had been trying to frame him. In the process he got to know several things about Congress, Robert Vadra deals and national politics that would come handy to him while formulating strategy for 2014 parliamentary elections.
The big surprise came in May 2013 when Amit Shah was made general secretary in charge of politically critical Uttar Pradesh. The most-populous state of the Hindi heartland state with 80 parliamentary seats had been a kind of Waterloo for any BJP leader who was made Central party in-charge. Most BJP leaders and supposed political pundits outside wrote him off, even predicted his political obituary. Rajnath Singh was then party president and Modi had yet not officially arrived on the national scene.
Modi was to be made BJP’s face for parliamentary election a month later in Goa. Shah with Modi’s support took that big bold risky step. BJP couldn’t win elections if it couldn’t score handsomely in UP. Shah travelled every single mile in the state and fetched an unimaginable 73 out 80 seats for BJP. Modi declared him man of the match of the 2014 General Election.
When Modi took over as Prime Minister of India in May 2014, he offered as reliable sources told Firstpost, the coveted post of defence minister to Shah. Modi then was not sure, as sources pointed out, if he would be able make Shah party president (because it was argued by some that both prime minister and party president couldn’t be from Gujarat). Shah politely told Modi of his preference to be in the organisation and work to fulfil Modi’s dream of a "Congress-mukt Bharat".
Rajnath Singh resigned from the post of party president two months after becoming Union home minister and Shah became president. In the months and years to come, it became clear that the BJP under the Modi-Shah dispensation had an unending and insatiable desire to grow both in size and influence. As Shah went about the task of expanding the organisational structure of the BJP, he was personally targetted by his political rivals, who called him all sorts of names: "Tadipar, criminal, murderer, narbhakshi, mota" etc, but he remained undeterred. The party became the biggest political outfit in terms of primary members in the world, surpassing the Chinese Communist Party.
On his part, Shah never forgot or forgave that he was falsely implicated with a fake encounter or murder conspiracy charges, and sent to jail by the then ruling Congress dispensation. That resolve to fight against his humiliation perhaps filled him with relentless energy to go across the nation and uproot the Congress and its allied parties.
Shah ensured that Modi’s charishmatic reach with people translated into votes. His "Panna Pramukh" idea at booth-level was initially ridiculed, but the Assam and Uttar Pradesh Assembly results proved that with resolve, tenacity, grit and the right strategy, even the most difficult elections could be won. He would work till late at night and tell his people to start reporting from early morning. He caused many BJP leaders in election-bound states to suffer from insomnia, but they couldn’t complain because their boss was leading from the front.
When Shah took over the BJP, the party was ruling in six states including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhatisgarh and Punjab (in alliance with Akali Dal). The Modi-Shah duo since May 2014 has lost Punjab, but added 13 more states — Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra, Jharkhand, Haryana, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Manipur, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and now Bihar.
The total tally of BJP-ruled states is 18. If forming governments in Goa and Manipur, as also a stealth operation in Bihar with Nitish Kumar were masterful manifestations of political maneuvering and quick thinking, the massive majority in Assam and Uttar Pradesh, the opening of an account in Kerala, raising vote percentage in states like Kerala and West Bengal, winning Panchayat and urban local bodies election in all of northern, eastern central and western India was a manifestation of sustained grassroots work. He is now eyeing the coastal states of Odisha, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Kerala.
The party got into the habit of punching above its weight, setting ambitious targets and achieving them on most occasions.
As Shah completes three years in office and enters Parliament for the first time, he and the BJP have too many things of which to boast. The party has reason to cheer that upon the closure of the Monsoon Session, days ahead of India celebrating 70 years of Independence, the BJP has its own president and vice-president (who also happens to be Chairman of Rajya Sabha), prime minister, a two-thirds majority in Lok Sabha, its own Speaker, and the party for the first time in the history of the country is turning into the single largest party in the Rajya Sabha.
Shah can pat himself on the back for these accomplishments and Modi can unfurl the tricolour at Red Fort on 15 August with renewed confidence. India at 70 is seeing a new political system, a BJP-yukt (hegemony) Bharat.
Updated Date: Aug 11, 2017 14:58 PM