Is BJP president Amit Shah losing his ‘Midas touch’?
Winning continuously can be addictive. And, who else other than BJP’s master strategist and party president, Amit Shah, can realise it better. However, his role as a man, who made the BJP victorious in elections after elections in recent times, despite big challenges, has now begun to come under scrutiny.
The Delhi poll debacle and the failure to assess the calamitous consequences of PDP-BJP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir have put Shah on the backfoot. Surely the president of India’s mainstream party must know in his heart of hearts that back-to-back political embarrassments may give ammunition to his detractors to cut him down to size.
An accomplished back-room strategist, Shah turned BJP’s aspirations into reality at national and state levels. With him at the helm, BJP’s yacht sailed through difficult winds. He secured a resounding victory for the BJP in 2014 General Elections, helping the party sweep the all-important state of Uttar Pradesh and did not stop at it.
Rolling the BJP’s bandwagon further, he along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ensured party’s landslide victory in Haryana and Jharkhand Assembly polls as well. The credit for BJP’s remarkable show in Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir also goes to him to a large extent.
However, while 2014 earned him accolades, 2015 has seen his strategies and his planning suffer setbacks. The experiments he tried for Delhi polls fell flat and BJP suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party.
It was widely speculated by the media and political analysts that the BJP had launched a negative campaign against AAP mainly at the behest of Shah, giving more than necessary publicity to Kejriwal. And later induction of an ‘outsider’ Kiran Bedi as the chief ministerial candidate in Delhi caused internal dissent in the BJP, leading to speculations of insiders working against the interest of the party.
Meanwhile, the present political tumult in J&K also raises doubts on Shah's political foresight. The landscape of J&K saw a tectonic shift when the BJP took political giants of the state by surprise with its magnificent performance in elections winning 25 seats in the 87-member Assembly, even though all of them came from the Jammu region. The jubilant BJP was confident that it could become part of the J&K government for the first time by sealing an alliance with somebody and Shah was once again, along with PM Modi, at the receiving end of applause.
However, it can be said in hindsight, though Shah was not the only one from the BJP engaged in negotiations with the PDP over government formation in the state, that his analytical mind could not read the writing on the wall before sealing the deal with Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. With BJP having to climb down on Article 370 and AFPSA and also facing embarrassment over Masarat Alam’s release from jail and Afzal Guru issue, it seems that negotiations with PDP have been done at the cost of BJP’s ideology.
Mufti’s soft stand on Hurriyat and Pakistan and release of Alam did see the BJP running for cover, even as the developments in J&K took the nation by surprise. Many said that BJP’s inability to take appropriate action against the controversies in J&K undermined the sacrifices of Jana Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.
Also, the PDP took decisions like issuing a circular on J&K flag without keeping the BJP in loop. Needless to say this was sufficient to provide enough arsenal to the Opposition to attack PM Modi, who was forced to defend BJP’s ‘patriotic beliefs’ in Parliament.
At the same time, the latest developments also leave many questions unanswered. Weren’t Amit Shah and his men aware that this was bound to happen if a coalition government would be formed with the PDP? Didn’t he have an iota of idea that the alliance could fall apart? And if he knew of the pitfalls of aligning with the PDP then why did he give consent to such a fragile alliance?
It’s understandable that BJP desperately wanted to be a part of government in J&K and it’s also been reported that the green signal was given by PM Modi himself but surely the setback in Delhi and the roller-coaster ride in J&K till now, must have dented the confidence of party’s cadre to a certain extent.
Moreover, the failed gamble in Delhi and the strained alliance with the PDP have also reportedly ruffled RSS’ feathers. In its mouthpiece ‘Organiser’, the RSS directed the BJP to ask Mufti if he is an Indian. It is also said that tensions have been brewing between the right-wing Hindu nationalist organisation and Shah.
If reports are to be believed then Shah was called to meet RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat at Nagpur headquarters and discussions over Delhi polls and PDP-BJP alliance were held there. And though it will be too far-fetched to say that Shah could be replaced, especially as he enjoys full confidence of PM Modi, annoying the RSS can turn fatal for him in the long run.
With important Bihar Assembly elections round the corner, it will be a challenge for Shah to ensure victory for the party and add another feather to the BJP's cap. The JD(U)-RJD alliance is a big obstacle in the way. Moreover, here too, local BJP cadre is apprehensive if an outsider will be projected as their CM candidate on the lines of Delhi, as per some reports. With so much at stake for all the major players, the elections in Bihar will be as exciting to watch as an India-Pakistan cricket match.
Above all, Bihar is an opportunity for Shah to prove his mettle once again and redeem himself if he wants to ensure a ‘un-debatable’ presidentship in the BJP.