Amit Shah's Elevation Shows Modi's Growing Hold on BJP
NEW DELHI: Amit Shah's elevation as the BJP president is a reflection of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's growing hold over the affairs of the party, and the coming months are likely to see the party exert to consolidate the gains in the Lok Sabha elections and extend its reach in areas where it is weak.
Shah, 49, was rewarded with the Bharatiya Janata Party's top post for steering the party in Uttar Pradesh where it did better than its own expectations in the Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP won 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats from the most populous state, with two seats being won by its ally Apna Dal.
Shah, who as general secretary was given charge of the party's affairs in Uttar Pradesh almost a year before the Lok Sabha elections, displayed his organisational abilities by invigorating the party, identifying winning candidates, working out caste combinations, tightening booth-level management and strategising the issues.
His relationship with Modi goes back to the 1980s, and he emerged as his close confidant over the years, serving him in various ministerial capacities when Modi was the Gujarat chief minister.
Shah's rise in national politics has followed Modi's spectacular rise in the BJP in the past year.
Modi was first elevated as head of the the BJP's Lok Sabha campaign committee and then named the party's prime ministerial candidate in the run-up to the general polls.
However, Modi dismissed speculation that he was a factor in Shah's rise.
Modi said in an interview during the Lok Sabha election campaign that Shah had risen in the party by dint of his own hard work and those who linked his rise to any other factor were doing him injustice.
The BJP now has an interesting situation where both the prime minister and the party president hail from Gujarat, where they workedin tandem for over a decade.
Party leaders said Shah's elevation was a pointer to the party continuing its effort to add muscle even as the BJP-led central government focuses on governance.
G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, a member of the BJP's election management cell, said party activities normally suffer when the party is in power as the best of talent shifts to the government.
"By having him (Shah) at the helm of affairs, the party has one of its best leaders to head (the organisation). Building the party and adding muscle will be a priority for the dispensation," he said.
He said Shah had proved himself as a result-oriented leader and will induct a team that can deliver.
"The focus will be not only on the coming assembly polls, it will be on winning the 2019 general election by making necessary preparations. The party is in consolidation and expansion (mode)," Rao told IANS.
Subrata Mukherjee, a political analyst who taught at Delhi University, said Shah's elevation was on expected lines and "Modi's grip over the party is established".
He said Shah was "an excellent organiser" and his "capabilities were already established".
Mukherjee said it also marks a pitch for younger leadership as Shah was younger to Modi by over 10 years.
Senior journalist S. Nihal Singh said Shah's rise marks Modi's supremacy in the BJP.
"The fact that his Man Friday, his most trusted aide, is now party president signals his status in the party," he said.
Nihal Singh said that murmurs in the party about Modi and Shah being from the same state were "suppressed" with suggestions that Shah would be ideal due to party's fantastic performance in Uttar Pradesh.
Shah is the 10th president of the BJP, given that senior leader L.K. Advani held the post thrice and Rajnath Singh twice since the party was established in 1980.