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Why Modi picked 'autocratic' Amit Shah as BJP chief

July 10, 2014 11:48 IST

Why Modi picked 'autocratic' Amit Shah as BJP chief

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Premal Balan

Amit Shah’s elevation will ensure that the Union government and the Bharatiya Janata Party work in tandem like a well-oiled machine

With the elevation of his close aide Amit Anilchandra Shah as president of Bharatiya Janata Party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ensured that he controls both the government and the party. Though Shah comes with the taint of being a prime accused in two fake police encounter cases, his elevation will ensure that the Union government and the BJP work in tandem like a well-oiled machine.

Shah's outstanding performance as BJP in-charge of Uttar Pradesh affairs during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections helped the BJP win 73 of 80 seats in the state. He has been an organisation man ever since he joined the BJP in early 1990s. Though he appears to be a down-to-earth kind of person who is soft-spoken, Shah is an orator par excellence who can charge up a crowd. This was evident from the UP Lok Sabha poll results. His organising skills can be gauged by the way he was able to rope in allies such as the Telugu Desam Party of Chandrababu Naidu and Lok Janshakti Party of Ramvilas Paswan back into the National Democratic Alliance before the 2014 general elections.

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Image: Amit Shah, the newly appointed president of the ruling BJP smiles during a news conference in New Delhi
Photographs: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

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Why Modi picked 'autocratic' Amit Shah as BJP chief

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Even Modi, who never during his 13-year tenure as Gujarat chief minister acknowledged Shah in a public forum, showered praises on the former minister of state for home affairs in Gujarat after the results of the general elections were announced on May 16.

Born in Mumbai on October 22, 1964, Shah is often known in political circles as Modi's "pointsman". And, it is not without a reason. Shah's behind the curtains moves have benefitted Modi in many ways. He was rewarded for his loyalty -- despite being out on bail in criminal cases -- with a ticket to contest for the Gujarat assembly elections in 2012 from Naranpura in Ahmedabad. He won the election.

Shah, a five-time MLA, holds a Bachelor's degree in Bio-Chemistry, was a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh volunteer and leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. He then rose up the ranks holding various posts in the Gujarat unit of the BJP. In March 2010, he was made a special invitee to the BJP national executive.

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Image: PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh offer sweets to Shah
Photographs: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

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Why Modi picked 'autocratic' Amit Shah as BJP chief

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Though he was part of the state assembly since 1995, Shah made his presence felt in December 2002, when BJP defeated the Congress to win a record 126 seats in the 182-member Gujarat assembly. Shah, who contested from Sarkhej constituency (before delimitation), won by the highest margin of votes, over 0.16 million, which was even higher than that of Modi's. He improved his 2002 margin of victory in 2007, winning by a lead of 0.24 million votes.

Shah, a share trader by occupation, has been quite active in the cooperative sector. He has been ex-chairman of Gujarat State Financial Board and Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank Ltd. He is currently director of the Gujarat State Cooperative Bank Ltd, Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank Ltd, National Federation of Urban Cooperative Bank and Credit Society Ltd, Ahmedabad Central Consumers Cooperative Federation and Gujarat Cooperative Bank Federation Ltd.

In September 2009, Shah played a crucial role in the BJP getting control over the cash-rich Gujarat Cricket Association. It was after over a decade that the Congress lost the reigns of the GCA. He was able to convince all members, district-level cricket associations to vote in favour of the BJP panel. As a result, Modi was elected the president of the GCA and Shah became vice-president. In June this year, Modi resigned as president of GCA and Shah was unanimously elected the president. Shah was instrumental in the BJP wresting control of milk cooperatives from the Congress.

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Image: Shah receives a garland by BJP members in New Delhi
Photographs: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

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Why Modi picked 'autocratic' Amit Shah as BJP chief

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However, Shah is not popular among party colleagues in Gujarat. Ministers in the state government have privately said Shah is autocratic and arrogant. There are also talks of a rift between Shah and Gujarat Chief Minister Anandi Patel. Sources said there are separate factions supporting Shah and Patel.

In June 2010, Shah became the first minister to be arrested in connection with a fake encounter case. He was later granted bail by the Gujarat high court in October 2010. This decision was challenged by the Central Bureau of Investigation, which probed the case, 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.

In November 2013, Shah was once again in the news in connection with the snooping scandal unearthed by two web portals. These portals had alleged that Shah had ordered an illegal surveillance of a woman at the behest of one "saheb". They had also released taped audio conversations between Shah and suspended Indian Police Service officer G L Singhal to support their claims.


Image: Shah gestures as he arrives to attend the BJP parliamentary party meeting at parliament house in New Delhi
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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