Amit Shah: Not Just An Election Machine
BJP president Amit Shah being presented a memento by Nirmalananda Swamiji at the Adichunchanagiri Mutt in Mandya district near Bengaluru on Sunday — PTI On the face of it, BJP president in brass utensils. His family stayed time seen as a party of forward Amit Shah is less flamboyant than in a one-room apartment when castes. Both in the 2014 Lok Sabha some of his illustrious predecesthey moved to Ahmedabad. These and 2017 Assembly polls, Shah first sors, yet in terms of delivery of reexperiences imbibed in him the stitched together a strong intra-parsults, he stands shoulder-to-shoulvirtues of simplicity early in life, ty caste alliance within BJP’s der with them. What sets Shah which he brought into his funcbroad political framework. He also apart from other politicians? tioning style as a career politician. strengthened the so-called rainbow Electoral astuteness is certainly He never uses chartered flights. He coalition by striking a pre-poll allithe most critical determinant in his prefers to travel short distances by ance with smaller regional outfits. politics but more than that, comroad instead of helicopter. During UP gave a historic mandate to BJP mitment to ideology (vichardhara), his recent visit to Odisha, he travin 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 assemvalue of workers (karyakarta) and elled over 600 km by road. He prebly polls only because of Shah’s assanctity of workplace (karyalaya) fers to stay in government guest tute social engineering and PM are three of Shah’s key attributes houses instead of star hotels durModi’s popularity. It also changed that make him stand out. ing outstation tours. In many the political narrative in the state
WhenShahwasveryyoung,his ways, Shah embodies what from caste to governance. parents engaged teachers to ensure Chanakya had advised centuries There is no doubt that PM Modi that he learnt India’s history. ago, “Politician or ruler addicted is India’s most popular leader Mahatma Gandhi’s political to vices cannot accomplish tasks.” and national figure since thoughtandBhagwatPuranaretwo Independence. Translating Modi’s big influences that shaped his thinkpersonal popularity into a political ing early in life from his mother, who victory across the country with diwas herself a Gandhian. His ideoverse pain points was never easy. It logical moorings were reinforced required a multi-pronged, wellwhen he joined the RSS and regularplanned electoral strategy with an ly started visiting shakhas. In one implementation roadmap planned such shakha in Naranpura, to the last detail. Shah performed Ahmedabad,hemethismentor this role to perfection. Narendra Modi. He honed his orOne of the most underrated attribganisational skills under utes of Shah as BJP president is his KushabhauThakrealsowithwhom ability to seamlessly move in tanhe worked for a long time. Himself a dem with the government’s overall booth worker in initial days, he took agenda. Millions of voters across up the challenging task of registerIndia do not distinguish between ing all BJP workers manually when BJP the party and its government Narendra Modi was the organisaat the Centre. Managing voters’ extion secretary of Gujarat. Shah conpectations is a fine art that requires tinued his focus on streamlining nimble-footedness in keeping the and expanding worker base after lines open with the government taking charge as BJP national presiwhile drafting an electoral victory dentasheembarkeduponanambiplot. Likewise, Shah has put in a tious project of making BJP the strong coordination system beworld’s largest party with more than tween the BJP and RSS to ensure 11 million members. that all efforts are united and an
A strict vegetarian, Shah is a nonchored with harmony. smoker and a teetotaller. He reUnlike most of his contemporarmembers both friends and adveries, Shah doesn’t believe in creating saries, and knows most party a coterie; rather, he uses every sinworkers by name. He insists that ofgle person in the organisation acfice-bearers sit at the party’s 11 cording to his or her ability. Ashoka Road headquarters. He Therefore, it’s not surprising that himself ensures that he spends several people perceived to enjoy long hours in his office when he is his close physical proximity are acin Delhi. Probably this is the reason tually the most disempowered, why he has taken up the ambitious while some who are never seen project of building BJP offices in all around often call the shots on im640 districts of India. portant matters.
Recently, during a visit to Rohtak, Shah has remarkable administraHaryana, while speaking to vistative and governance expertise — a raks (full-time workers), Shah quality that people outside Gujarat stunned everyone when he said, “I do not know much about. As a mindon’t want you to work if you think ister in Gujarat for close to a decade you are doing this to win elections he handled important portfolios or make someone CM or PM. like home, panchayati raj, prohibiInstead, you should do this to make tion, transport, etc. His ministerial India Vishva Guru (world leader).” tenure is remembered for a rich legShah’s commitment to national acy of key initiatives such as fixing honour is beyond politics. He peraccountability of lower bureaucrasonally engaged himself with the cy in panchayats, modern forensic Jawaharlal Nehru University conlaboratories, strengthening coastal troversy after Congress vice presipolicing, etc. As party president he dent Rahul Gandhi visited JNU reportedly gives critical inputs to campus in support of those who Union ministers in his routine inshouted anti-India slogans. teractions with them. Now, as Rajya
Shah was born in a prosperous Sabha member, it is only natural family. His great-grandfather was that he makes important contributhe nagarseth of a small princely tions in policy-making. state of Mansa. Even as he grew up The story of the 53-year old modin the family haveli, his parents ern-day Chanakya is still unfoldmade sure that he does not get acing. The country will see many customed to the comforts of a lavmore of his unseen aspects than ish upbringing. For instance, his just an election machine in the sisters used to go to school by a coming months and years. bagghi (horse carriage) but he walked to school. Likewise, while his sisters were served food in silver utensils, he was given food only
Shah is fond of reading political treatises. He first read Kautilya’s Arthashashtrawhenhewasnine years old. Shah considers Chanakyaniti as the most sacred political manual. For instance, on the issue of secrecy, Chanakya says, “The king shall singly deliberate over secret matters; for ministers have their own ministers, and these latter some of their own; this kind of successive line of ministers tends to the disclosure of counsels.” Shah often says “success of a project depends on its secrecy”. Recent decisions like the presidential candidate and the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh mirror this principle.
Though Shah entered national politics in 2013, his organisational training and extensive travel across India helped him learn the finer points of Cow Belt politics. In no time in UP Shah transformed the profile of BJP, which was for a long (The author is a psephologist and director of Research and Development Initiative)