The battle for the crown in Delhi will be fought in the dusty plains of Uttar Pradesh. By giving the reigns of UP’s electoral campaign to Amit Shah, Narendra Modi and the BJP leadership had made its game plan clear—to revive Ram Janmabhoomi politics in the state as Modi gears up to pursue an unabashed Hindu agenda.
BJP in UP is bereft of an emotive issue to stir up the voters like the Babri Masjid and Ram Temple. It also lacks a leader who can contend with the stature of Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav and the BSP’s Mayawati. If the BJP has to dislodge the Congress at the centre, it would have to conquer UP. For this it feels a Hindutva wave is the answer and Modi will be the face. Organiser par excellence Amit Shah is merely preparing the ground. Modi is expected to ride the wave to lead the party ahead of its political rivals—the Congress, SP and the BSP. The party has realized that Modi would polarize the anti-BJP votes into one group and break caste barriers. Amit Shah’s Ayodhya visit is just the beginning.
But would Shah’s controversial past hamper party’s chances or increase them in electorally important UP where the BJP hopes to win half of the state’s Lok Sabha seats? The BJP is betting on Hindu votes to improve its present tally. It had reaped the benefits of Ram temple when it won an absolute majority in the UP assembly and 41 Lok Sabha seats in 1991. In 1996, the party won 49. The BJP’s best performance was during the 1998 general elections when it bagged 57 seats. But the party’s performance has been falling after that. Many feel that the numbers started dropping after the temple issue was placed on the backburner. In 1999, BJP garnered only 29 seats.
Shah is not on the defensive about his Hindu hawk image. During his first visit to UP in June after taking over as party-in-charge he said, “My appointment shouldn’t be seen as communal. However, what the Samajwadi Party government is doing, trying to withdraw cases against suspected terrorists, is communal.”
Shah became the youngest minister in the Modi government in 2003. He was given 10 portfolios including Home. He will now, in addition to his UP duties, will also manage party’s social media election campaign for the tech savvy Modi. Modi has used Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus to create a buzz around him. By retaining Shah as social media in-charge, the party hopes to put in place a successful Gujarat model in action. Ironically, Amit Shah had made his debut on Twitter and Facebook only two months back; after being given a significant role in the Modi-fied BJP.
Born on October 22, 1964, Amit Shah is a BSc graduate. A dedicated RSS member, Shah started life in politics as a student activist with the ABVP and went on to become treasurer of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha in 1989. He had even campaigned for Advani in Gandhinagar during the Lok Sabha elections in 1991. He first entered Gujarat Assembly from Sarkhej Assembly in 1998 and later shifted to Naranpura from where he is currently a MLA. Since 1998, he has won all his elections. Known for his organisational skills, the media shy Shah’s fortunes changed when he met his mentor in Narendra Modi in 2002 when Modi became CM. He was drafted in the cabinet in 2003 and was given 10 portfolios, including home, transport, law and justice, legislative and parliamentary affairs, border security, civil defence, prohibition and excise. When the UPA government was voted to power in 2004 it repealed the controversial anti-terror law Pota Act. As a home minister known for his uncompromising stand against those with terror links Shah was responsible for drafting Gujarat Control of Organised Crime (Amendment) Bill. The bill was denied permission by the central government.