Who is Amit Anilchandra Shah and what makes him so powerful? Premal Balan reports
Former Gujarat minister of state for home, Amit Anilchandra Shah, has once again come into the limelight with the snooping controversy unearthed by two investigative news portals, Cobrapost.com and Gulail.com. These websites had alleged on November 15 that Shah, a close aide of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, had ordered illegal surveillance of a woman at the behest of one 'Saheb'. They had also released taped audio conversations between Shah and suspended IPS officer G L Singhal to support their claims.
The 49-year-old Shah had earlier come under the spotlight in June 2010, when he became the first politician to be arrested in connection with the 2005 fake police encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and subsequent murder of his wife, Kausar Bi.
He was granted bail by the Gujarat high court in October 2010. This decision was challenged by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Supreme Court which barred Shah from entering Gujarat. This restriction was lifted only in September 2012, ahead of the assembly polls in Gujarat.
He is widely viewed as being Modi's point man. And it is not without reasons. Shah's crucial innings behind the curtains have benefited Modi in many ways. And for his loyalty towards Modi, his mentor, Shah, despite being the prime accused in fake encounter cases, was given the mandate by the Bharatiya Janata Party to contest assembly elections in December 2012 from Naranpura in Ahmedabad, which he won.
A five-time MLA, Shah holds a bachelor's degree in bio-chemistry, was a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh volunteer and a leader of BJP's youth wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. He then rose up the ranks holding various posts in the Gujarat unit of BJP. In March 2010, he was made a special invitee to the BJP National Executive.
Though he was a part of the state assembly since 1995, Shah made his presence felt in December 2002 when BJP crushed the Congress to win a record 126 seats in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly. Shah contested from Sarkhej constituency (before delimitation) won and by the highest margin of votes -- 160,000 --, even higher than Modi himself. He bettered his 2002 margin of victory in 2007, winning by a lead of 240,000 votes.
Shah, being a share trader by occupation, has been quite active in the cooperative sector, especially cooperative banks. He has been ex-chairman of Gujarat State Financial Board and Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank. He is at present director of the Gujarat State Cooperative Bank, Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank, National Federation of Urban Cooperative Bank and Credit Society, New Delhi, Ahmedabad Central Consumers Cooperative Federation and Gujarat Cooperative Bank Federation.
In September 2009, Shah played a crucial role in getting control over the cash-rich Gujarat Cricket Association. It was after over a decade that Congress lost the reigns of GCA. He was able to convince all the members, district-level cricket associations to vote in favour of the BJP- backed panel. Following this win, Modi was elected the president of GCA, while Shah was appointed vice-president.
Considered a key strategist and planner for the party, Shah is also credited with BJP taking control of a number of Gujarat's milk co-operatives from the Congress.
After winning the December 2012 assembly polls, Shah was made national general secretary of BJP. He has been put in charge of Uttar Pradesh with an eye on the 2014 general elections.
However, Shah is not popular among colleagues. His fellow party men have reportedly been quoted as saying that the Shah is remote and autocratic, some say arrogant, and has not bothered to keep the best of personal relations with his colleagues. There are also talks of a rift between Shah and another close aide of Modi, Revenue Minister Anandi Patel.
Image: Amit Shah, a leader of Bharatiya Janata Party gestures towards his party supporters before a rally addressed by Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for BJP
Photographs: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters