"He was the most powerful minister after Modi and handled all the 2002 riots related cases in the Supreme Court,” said a BJP leader.
"As the home minister, Shah was known for misusing the police force to track the movements of political opponents,” said a senior bureaucrat.
Shah's absence, though, was being felt by the BJP ahead of the assembly polls. "It is a big victory. Now Amitbhai would be able to participate in the poll campaign," said Gujarat BJP general secretary Vijay Rupani.
A shrewd politician, Shah was Modi's main strategist for the 2007 assembly polls. In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, he was instrumental in crafting the defeat of Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela.
This time, Shah is expected to be an asset in the face of the challenge from ex-CM Keshubhai Patel and the resurgent Congress. "He understands the state's political and social equations," said an official.
Shah, too, is looking forward to being back in the game. He said he would campaign in the polls and give a "fitting reply to the Congress, which used CBI” to implicate him in the cases.