In 2008, when Amit Shah went to jail for his involvement in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, opponents of the former Gujarat minister of state for home had predicted his downfall and end of his political career. But an astrologer, whom Shah trusted, foresaw his rise like a phoenix from the ashes. The phoenix has risen in 2014 and is growing bigger now. The man from Gujarat has scripted a stupendous victory for his mentor — Narendra Modi.
The way Shah handled his latest responsibility — Narendra Modi-led BJP`s UP campaign — has shown that this electrifying BJP leader has it in him to take up larger roles.
After 15 years of being in wilderness, BJP swept the state of Uttar Pradesh in 2014 General Elections. Out of the 80 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state, the BJP stamp its authority on a whopping 71 seats. The ‘Tsunami’ created by Narendra Modi-led BJP swept away all other parties in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh.
Congress and the ruling Samajwadi Party in the state could manage to retain only their family seats while former chief minister Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party could not even open its account. And if there is one man who should be credited for this huge win in UP, it is definitely Amitbhai Anilchandra Shah. If Narendra Modi is the ‘Man of the Series’, then Amit Shah is definitely the ‘Man of the Match’ of the 2014 General Elections.
From the beginning of battle for the Lok Sabha, Uttar Pradesh was the prime focus of Narendra Modi. He always knew that victory in this state will play a key role in winning the polls. So, Modi brought his `Man Friday` from Gujarat, who had the track record of exceptional organisational skills to handle a big state. BJP was in complete disarray in UP and Amit Shah had a tall order to manage it. This state has always remained a cause for worry for the BJP where its prospects have been plagued by a plethora of problems resulting in dismal performances in both the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in the past.
Knowing that the road to Delhi goes through Uttar Pradesh, Shah from the beginning maintained a distance from the Ram temple issue and focused on the politics of development. While making it absolutely clear that ‘Ram Mandir’ was not an election issue for the BJP, Amit Shah once said, "We will focus on politics of development not temple." In only a year, Shah has shown that the party made no mistake in appointing him as the chief strategist for Uttar Pradesh.
When he arrived, factionalism was ruling the roost in the party. UP BJP was known for inactive booth-level workers. It was known as the party where individuals often became greater than the cadre. Many more such problems contributed to the continuous downfall of the party until workers saw a ray of hope in Shah. He had the unique distinction of not losing any election under his supervision. He directed workers and leaders to adopt one booth each and ensure the party`s victory there. The BJP formed such committees for over 80% of the booths.
Born into a well-established business family in 1964, Shah, who had a plastics and printing business, met Modi in the late 1980s and the duo has been working together ever since. Shah was drawn to RSS as a boy. However, Shah came into limelight in 2001, when Narendra Modi had a thumping victory in the Gujarat Assembly polls. Shah was given charge of as many as 10 portfolios including home, law and justice, prison, border security and housing.
Currently BJP`s national general secretary, Shah has always proved that he is indeed one of the most consummate political strategists, in not just the BJP, but across the entire political chessboard. He is an artful negotiator and a good mediator between warring groups. Just before the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls, Shah had only 11 months since he was made the UP BJP chief, for bringing a 360 degree turnaround of the party in this crucial state.
It is believed that Amit Shah played a masterstroke by suggesting Narendra Modi to contest from Varanasi, so that the seats of Purvanchal could be brought into BJP’s account. In his mind Shah was always very clear that if Congress could play politics over `minority vote bank` then why couldn`t BJP keep their hopes high on reassigning the majority. The 16th Lok Sabha will have one of the lowest numbers of Muslim MPs with just about 20 of them emerging victorious in the polls which saw a saffron surge in the whole north and western parts of India. Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 seats, has not sent any Muslim candidate in the just concluded elections.
Shah`s hard work has yielded rich dividends as Modi has won the Varanasi seat defeating Arvind Kejriwal of AAP and Ajay Rai of Congress with an impressive margin. Riding against the tide, Shah`s rise in 2014 has not been without its share of controversies and blots. He has been a hugely controversial politician for his alleged role in the Snoopgate and Ishrat Jahan encounter case in 2002. He was exiled by the Supreme Court from Gujarat for two years and also sent to prison. His ‘revenge remark’ during election campaign in the riot-hit Muzaffarnagar caused a huge uproar.
Now, it is Modi`s turn to reward his master strategist, old friend and a true loyalist. Recently, Shah accompanied Modi and party president Rajnath Singh to Varanasi where the trio first offered prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath temple and later attended `Ganga Aarti` which depicts how special they are for the PM-designate Modi. So, Amit Shah is likely to get a plum post in the Modi cabinet or be given the responsibility of strengthening the party in other states where it needs a surge.
However, keeping aside all speculations, Shah may not be keen on joining the government, and may prefer playing a bigger role in the party. Otherwise known as a a shrewd and vocal politician he may like to be a part of party`s signature projects like the clean-up of the Ganga river. Irrespective of whether he joins the government or not, Shah will be a vital cog in BJP`s and Narendra Modi`s plans for party`s political management and revamp.