AMIT SHAH Vs AHMED PATEL Shah Denied Icing on Cake to Celebrate Anniv as Party Chief
Irrespective of whether they are dwijas (twice-born) or not, Hindus have two birthdays — the first according to the tithi ( Hindu calendar), the second according to the Gregorian calendar. Amit Shah’s tenure as BJP president also has two anniversaries: July 9, when he took over from Rajnath Singh in 2014; and August 9, when BJP’s National Council ratified his elevation the same year.
But his two-fold political ascendance to BJP’s helm has not affected his unifocal approach to managing the party, and pushing it to heights most colleagues had doubts it would ever reach. Though ‘Operation Defeat Ahmed Patel’ came unstuck on late Tuesday night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signalled that the setback was already a thing of the past. As assembly polls in Delhi and Bihar demonstrated, Modi and Shah are guided by the belief that tomorrow is another day. Early on Wednesday, Modi tweeted a congratulatory message, tagging Shah, a colleague and faithful understudy for threeand-a-half decades, on his completion of three years at the party controls. Back in 2014 when names for the next BJP president were being bandied about, few betted on Shah. Many felt that after a PM from Gujarat, it would not be politically prudent for the party presi-
KEY TO SHAH’S SUCCESS
play the dual facet that had been visible during the campaign when the central office often worked at cross purposes with the c a mp a i g n centre based in Gandhinagar. Shah understood such a divergence would be damaging. The membership drive Shah launched not just enabled BJP to emerge as the largest political party but also conveyed that it did not encourage shortcuts to powerful positions.
Having risen in the party from the early 1980s, Shah was aware of the disadvantages of the collegiate system of functioning that was the BJP’s characteristic. He was unapologetic about the need for a certain amount of centralism, and was prepared to face accusations, in the wake of the Bihar debacle, of destroying the BJP’s consensual style of politics. But with more than a little help from RSS and Modi, he tided over the crisis, and in January 2016 was given a fresh tenure after completing the remaining period of Rajnath Singh’s term.
To say that Amit Shah is politically ruthless is an understatement. Relentless pursuit of power is his credo even if that means ideology taking a back seat. The key to Shah’s success is his ability to forge a relationship of mutual respect between party and government. Does Shah have a chink in his armour? In plotting Patel’s defeat did Shah err by failing to keep the exuberance out? After all, he had all but cooked Patel’s goose were it not for the two rebel Congress MLAs who had displayed their ballots.
Shah undoubtedly played a key role in giving shape to Modi’s ‘Congress-Mukt Bharat’. His personal election to the Rajya Sabha notwithstanding, Shah has been denied the icing on the cake to celebrate his third anniversary as party president. How quickly he learns from this failed mission will deter mine if the surge forward can be sustained.