By-poll shocker to trouble with allies: Is Amit Shah floundering as BJP president?
Why has the slide in BJP’s fortune coincided with the ascent of Amit Shah as the head of the party?
Is Amit Shah the BJP president undoing the good work of Amit Shah the master strategist? Why has the slide in BJP’s fortune coincided with the ascent of Shah as the head of the party? Ideally, not too much should be read into the results of the recently held by-polls, however, the perceptible swing in the public mood away from the party should be food for thought for its think-tank. If the BJP fails to be less spectacular in its victory in the upcoming assembly elections, it may bruise his reputation as a sound planner.
Narendra Modi’s transition from the chief minister of Gujarat to the prime minister of the nation has been fairly smooth, but Shah seems to be faltering a bit after pulling off the UP miracle in May. The game changer in UP is now being seen as a game breaker. Modi has retained his mojo in his new incarnation. The same can’t be said of Shah. In Bihar, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Karnataka, the BJP has not only performed poorly but also antagonised traditional allies and ceded ground to Congress and its allies.
Shah’s unseemly haste to bring out the dagger from behind the cloak can largely be blamed for the party’s debacle in Uttar Pradesh. It’s possible while betting on Shah the RSS either grossly overestimated his guile or underestimated the might of various groups in Uttar Pradesh. The party seems to have forgotten that the voter doesn’t take the RSS to be the sole stakeholder in BJP’s progress.
Even while the party knew of the factionalism in various states it preferred to sweep the matter under the carpet. Shah had little time or inclination to attend to simmering dissidence within the party. There is a full-blown war among senior leaders in Bihar with former deputy chief minister, Sushil Modi falling foul of veteran’s like Shatrughan Sinha and CP Thakur. The Bihar leaders have also been unsparing of their own party for various lapses. Sushil Modi reproved the idea of unleashing Adityanath in UP while Thakur rejected his own party’s allegations against Nitish Kumar in the medicine scam.
The BJP hasn’t addressed its intra-party problems any better than the Congress. It has hurriedly taken ad hoc measures in most states where it was jolted and rushed the fire tenders to Haryana and Maharashtra. The party’s foot-soldiers are uncertain on how to deal with the unexpected success earned four months because many senior leaders have been rendered redundant.
In Haryana, the move to let go of Haryana Janhit Congress and take a principled stand to fight alone could be appreciated. But, to go against the older partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal which is campaigning for Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal, might singe its equations in Punjab. While it takes on the Jat–dominated INLD it finds itself losing the support of non-Jats in jettisoning Kuldip Bishnoi of HJC. The party will have to do well in Haryana to prevent Shah’s stock dipping further.
For its sterling performance in the Lok Sabha election it rewarded the Uttar Pradesh unit with nine ministries at the Centre and made two party veterans governors. However, when Amit Shah was made the party’s national president murmurs began to be heard in the state. By marginalising satraps like Murli Manohar Joshi and Lalji Tandon and promoting Yogi Adityanath, Shah began complicating issues. Rajnath Singh’s statement on Love Jihad showed he was not quite in sync with what the state leaders were up to. With the party refusing to own up the Love Jihad movement, UP leaders couldn’t explain the duplicity to voters in their constituencies. The mother-son duo of Maneka and Varun Gandhi contributed with their indifference. Shah failed to act in the matter.
Shah might not have had much to do with the slide in Rajasthan except for approving the candidates. Vasundhara Raje was quite quick to antagonise party colleagues with her opaque style and over-centralised dispensation. Of the record number of 163 MLAs, she has chosen only 11 ministers keeping 47 departments to herself. Much credit must also go the youthful Congress leader Sachin Pilot who effectively harnessed the resentment against Raje. Gujarat remains Modi-Shah’s team’s pocket borough. Even there the Congress’ gains haven’t come against the run of the play. The dissent against BJP was reflected in the margin of votes in Vadodara. Modi had won the seat with over three lakh votes. His successor won with a trimmed margin.
The party’s alliance with Shiv Sena may still survive if Shah and Co learn from the recent setbacks and shed their swagger. The upcoming elections would tell us how the changed gait helps the party.
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