[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]C[/dropcap]hess players have the uncanny ability to see things in advance. Given his love for chess, Amit Shah has rightfully acquired some of the characteristic of a passionate wood pusher—foresight, aloofness and shrewdness. He will need all these traits and more to succeed in his full three-year term as the BJP president. On Sunday, Shah was reelected as the party president, retaining the post he has held since August 2014.
Shah, 51, who took charge of the party from now Home Minister Rajnath Singh, was elected unopposed at an event at the BJP headquarters as hundreds of party activists raised slogans hailing him and the party.
Shah’s immediate challenge will be to ensure that the BJP captured power in Assam in the forthcoming poll by dethroning a three-term Congress chief minister Tarun Gogoi. The BJP has made the right start by aligning with Bodo People Front (BPF), which wields considerable sway in over 20 assembly seats.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]S[/dropcap]hah watchers knows that he likes to create defections, cause splits and stitch alliances ahead of polls. The days ahead could see the BJP bringing more allies under its umbrella and wooing influential local leaders to take on the Congress.
While the BJP has no chance of even putting up a fight in the forthcoming assembly polls in West Bengal Kerala and Tamil Nadu, still Shah will be expected to improve the party’s tally in these states to make Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of turning the BJP into a pan-India organization.
Shah’s charisma will be put to test in Uttar Pradesh which goes to polls in 2017. As party in charge of UP in Lok Sabha polls, Shah had ensured a clean sweep for the BJP in the biggest Indian state, winning 73 out of 80 seats for the party. Since then BJP’s fortunes have been on the decline in the state. Shah will have to put in place an effective state president and energetic organizaation to gear up the party for the cruel electoral challenge where it will be pitted against the Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samajwadi Party. The Congress may align with the RJD, Janata Dal (U) and Rashtriya Lok Dal.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]n 2017, Shah will be required to perform a near miracle if the BJP and Akali Dal alliance hope to retain power in Punjab. The Badal government suffers from heavy anti-incumbency and it looks almost certain that the Congress will stage a comeback in the state. It will not be a surprise if the BJP were to fall behind even the Aam Admi Party (AAP) in the state.
In addition to electoral challenges, the BJP chief will also have to ensure that “development” mantra of Modi echoes across the country and resonates more powerfully than the divisive voices raised by fringe outfits of the Sangh Parivar. Shah may also have to learn the art of reaching out to the masses and workers. So far he has been a self-confined leader who does not give appointments to even bigwigs of the party and the government, forget the humble media men.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who flew to Chandigarh to receive French President Francois Hollande, congratulated Shah, and said he was confident the party “will scale newer heights under his leadership”.
“Amit bhai combines grassroot-level work and rich organizational experience which will benefit the party immensely,” said Modi, who is said to count Shah as one of his most trusted aides.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]B[/dropcap]esides Modi, the two other notable absentees from the BJP event were former party presidents L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, who are known to be unhappy with Shah’s style of functioning.
But the stage erected at the party office was crowded with visibly happy BJP leaders including another former president, M. Venkaiah Naidu. Many garlanded Shah and offered him bouquets. So did numerous party activists.
Shah did not address the gathering or speak to the media.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]A[/dropcap] science graduate, Shah rose to fame when he, as the party in-charge in Uttar Pradesh, led the BJP to a grand victory in the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha battle where it won 73 of the 80 seats – a record.
It was the Lok Sabha election where he and Modi combined to lead the party to a spectacular victory, ending 10 long years of Congress rule. The Congress was routed.
Shah came to be associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) in Gujarat in his young days. He met Modi in 1982, and the two have remained close since then.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]H[/dropcap]e joined the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the RSS student wing, in 1983 and the BJP in 1986 – a year before Modi became a BJP member. Shah switched over to the BJP’s student wing, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, in 1987.
A four-time legislator in Gujarat, Shah was a former home minister in the state.
His reputation as a strategic organizer took a beating when the Aam Aadmi Party routed the BJP in the Delhi assembly election in February last year – the first popularity contest after the Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP was again defeated in the Bihar assembly election in November 2015. It was the Bihar defeat that triggered a revolt by some BJP veterans including Advani and Joshi against Shah’s working style.
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