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The rise and rise of Amit Shah

Thursday, 10 July 2014 - 6:20am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Sitting in the BJP headquarters at 11 Asoka Road before the elections, Amit Shah would often respond to reporters' questions about his future with the pat answer: "You will see me right here."

Well, a lot of water has flowed across the nearby Yamuna river after he said that. Amit Shah is still at the 11 Asoka Road headquarters but as the BJP's president in what can be seen to be a phenomenal rise in the course of two years. He was humility personified after he was made party president and thanked the incumbent president Rajnath Singh for his leadership "under which the party scaled new heights of success".

The truth, actually, is slightly different. It was Amit Shah who made the difference for the BJP by leading the party in the state to capture an unimaginable 73 seats out of 80, and the expected coronation came as reward for his organisational skills, which in the course of one year turned an also-ran party in UP (10 seats in 2009) to the pinnacle of success.

Amit Shah is out on bail in the Sohrabuddin encounter case and so could not be made number two in the cabinet. As BJP president, he will be the de facto number two in the NDA alliance since he has the ears of Narendra Modi and both of them have been a pair in Gujarat for many years now.

After the days of LK Advani as party president, Shah will be the most high-profile president that the party has had, a far cry from the days when the party had faceless and almost apologetic presidents like, say Bangaru Laxman.

Like Modi, Shah too has now assumed a larger than life persona, credited with powers of influencing the electorate, ability to spot talent, no-nonsense attitude to getting things done and an ability to conjure up caste and political alliances (Apna Dal in UP for instance) out of nowhere. As days pass by other such miraculous powers will also be conferred on him as he, along with Modi, sets out on the enormous task of changing the country for the better, a task that others, some of them better qualified, have tried and failed.

"Amit Shah ji has an amazing knack of spotting talent," says party spokesman Vijay Pahak.

"My first lesson from him was that unless you achieve the target, do not rest. He followed the route of analysis and course of action. He heard everyone intently before taking a decision. His face never betrayed wheter he approved of something or not," says Laxmikant Bajpayee, UP's party chief.

Such praises will flow thick in the coming days as Shah settles into his job. The Modi-Shah partnership is modelled on the twin axis Sonia-Manmohan model that the UPA used sucessfully for eight years. In the end, the UPA model may have come a bit unstuck with the chasm between the government and the party widening. Sonia communicated with the government through letters for all her empowerment revolution proposals and other strategies.

Here, Modi and Shah will be whispering into each others ears as we have seen so many times. Quite likely Modi will be bouncing ideas off Shah, apart from Arun Jaitley, though Shah's immediate task will be to win the four states for the party in the forthcoming elections: Maharastra, Jharkhand, J&K and Haryana.

Both Modi and Shah have trimmed beards but they are hardly bearded philosophers, unread and without the appandage of an Oxon or Cambridge or Ivy league suffixed to their names. As they joust with ideas, vision and high economics this will be their main drawback. There is only so much that street politics can help you with.

Shah clearly cannot just be BJP president; he will have to do course-correction for the government as well, a role which Sonia Gandhi did during the 10 UPA years. The BJP never attacked Manmohan Singh ruthlessly but always aimed their fire at Sonia, showing how much the BJP valued that sort of role. Reticent, reserved, ruthless and with high cunning, and keeping up that mysterious stony exterior, Shah is quite capable of playing the second axis role. Unperturbed by criticism, unprovoked by slander, zigzagging though the plethora of allegations against him, Shah at 50 can play the marauder and manipulator to the hilt. Now all that he needed to match the Sonia type persona was the paraphernalia of the Z plus security and that too has been granted to him.

The post, the power, the pelf, the paraphernalia are all there. Now Shah can zigzag through the high streets as well as the low gullies of political turmoil with more greatness thrust upon him than he actually deserves. Shah knows about the potholes that lie ahead. Whether he knows how to skip across them has to be seen.

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