In the immediate aftermath of the sixth phase of polling, BJP president Amit Shah held a press conference at the party headquarters in Delhi. Towards the end of his opening remark, he surprised all by saying, “In every election, you keep on asking how many seats the BJP will win. Let me tell you that in these elections, in terms of BJP crossing majority mark, that was over in the sixth phase. The party has already secured majority, we are campaigning for seventh phase only to enhance our numbers from what we got last time. This time, we are going to cross 300 mark."
Many found it hard to digest, but his words could not be ignored. His public claims, especially about polls, had a track record of coming true. Ahead of the concluding round of polling in Uttar Pradesh Assembly election in February 2017, Shah had said the elections in the state were over in the fourth phase and for the remaining three phases, the BJP was working hard to win it with record numbers. He was proved right then too. He was proved right now. He won his first parliamentary election from Gandhinagar seat in Gujarat by a whopping margin of over 5.55 lakh.
As newly made general secretary-in charge of UP, he had crafted BJP’s phenomenal victory in 2014 in the politically most critical state, propelling the party to go well past majority mark (272 in a House of 542). In 2019, as party president, he saw that BJP scored a dream number 303 on its own for the 17th Lok Sabha. In these elections, BJP had added over five crore new voters, 22.6 crore, taking its own vote percentage to 37.4 percent. In the last five years, BJP had also become the biggest party in the world. In 2014, the BJP ruled six states but then came a time when BJP was ruling 19 states.
Much of it is undoubtedly because of Modi magic but it’s also a fact that it would not have been possible without the organisational, strategic and logistical support Shah tirelessly provided to him to ensure that his mass appeal was converted to votes. In his maiden presidential address to BJP national council meeting held in New Delhi in August 2014 to ratify his elevation to party president, Shah had said the BJP would fight to win every single election.
In that regard, he gave figures, including that Congress could not open its account in around 20 states. That story was repeated on Thursday when it drew a blank in 19 states and Union Territories. The Congress’ tally in these states was zero. In big states like UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, it could get only one. In the entire North East, Congress could secure only one seat.
For the second successive time, Modi-Shah duo have ensured that Congress, a party which ruled India for six decades, had to live with the ignominy of not even being recognised as the main Opposition party in Lok Sabha for the second consecutive time. In 16th Lok Sabha, it had 44 seats and in the 17th Lok Sabha, Congress will have 52. A party in Opposition needs 10 percent of total strength of the House to be recognised as the lead Opposition party. The biggest humiliation that the BJP could inflict on Congress was to trounce the Grand Old Party’s president Rahul Gandhi at his family pocket borough in Amethi.
That obviously couldn’t have been possible without a well-crafted strategy and sustained hard work by everyone concerned in the BJP.
Shah had given a vent to his thoughts, ideas and how he would like the party to work shortly after he had taken over president’s post from Rajnath Singh. He and Modi were conscious that the BJP had peaked in north and west India and he thus had to expand the party in North East and east, and also try to broaden its footprints in the south beyond Karanataka. The mantra was to make a push in West Bengal and coastal Indian states.
He sounded too ambitious when he spoke of breaching Mamata Banerjee’s fortress in West Bengal and making inroads in Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
West Bengal, however, was the only state where he talked in terms of numbers, to begin with 20 and later revising it to 23. Initially, most would laugh at his claims but as the campaigning gained heat, some started admitting that BJP was giving Banerjee's TMC a run for its money. The result showed that Shah had achieved what he aimed for, winning 18 seats out of 42 in the states. Remember, the BJP had only two MPs from the state in the outgoing Lok Sabha. Its voteshare catapulted to 40 percent in the state. It made gains in Odisha and Telangana. Andhra Pradesh was the only state where its vote share went down. In Kerala and Tamil Nadu, it never had much of a presence.
Shah's strength lay in recognising opportunities and challenges early and accordingly making a strategy and marshalling his troops. Regular monitoring and review were parts of that process which never went off-track. After BSP-SP-RLD came together to have a gathbandhan of Muslim-Yadav-Dalit-Jat in UP, Shah told his party workers that the gathbandhan had to be vanquished if the party had to remain in power at the Centre for the next decade or so. Defeat of a coalition of this kind would ensure that politics of development prevailed over caste and community. His sustained pep talk to party leaders and workers gave the party the confidence and also the required vigor to take on rival formation.
In states like Bihar and Maharashtra, he swallowed pride in the larger interest of the party to ensure that the coalition stayed on course. In the end, he proved that nothing was impossible for the BJP.
Amit Shah has proved to be a most worthy president of BJP, a worthwhile lieutenant to Modi who would deliver more than what was expected of him. The future prospects for Shah are full of immense possibilities.
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Updated Date: May 24, 2019 17:06:44 IST