From the moment his name was floated as a candidate for BJP president, it was all over bar the shouting. With Amitbhai Anilchandra Shah’s elevation to the highest party post, the BJP looks more impregnable than ever before. The choice of Mr Shah signals a change in dynamics within the party. We have seen various permutations and combinations of the party chief-prime minister equation. In the earlier NDA, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the boss, the party chiefs were lightweights. In the UPA, the party president was all-powerful, the PM was a political lightweight. Here we have a powerful prime minister in Narendra Modi and a powerful party chief. But anyone expecting the two to come into collision will be disappointed for no one is more in sync with Mr Modi than Mr Shah, who has long been his confidant and valuable political resource.
Throughout the Gujarat years, Mr Modi relied heavily on Mr Shah’s organisational skills. The crowning glory that catapulted both to the heart of political power was the amazing coup in Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP got a stunning 71 seats. Mr Shah worked tirelessly for this victory and it is no wonder that the party now looks to him to streamline it and ensure that it stays fit for the upcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana. If anyone can pull off the feat of extending the Modi wave into the assembly elections, it is Mr Shah. With the combination of Mr Shah and Mr Modi controlling both the party and the government, the RSS is likely to find its nose out of the joint. While both men are dyed-in-the-wool RSS supporters, they will not be as amenable to diktats from Nagpur as previous party presidents have been. This will mean a recalibration of the relationship between the RSS leadership and the party’s.
The Haryana and Maharashtra elections are crucial for the BJP as they could further consolidate its grip and marginalise the Congress even more. To have Mr Shah at the helm will galvanise the rank and file of the party in these states. The litmus test will be the slew of by-elections in UP, where the BJP has now become a force to reckon with. The choice of Mr Shah shows that the BJP is not about to get complacent about its massive parliamentary victory and intends to keep up its winning streak for as long as it can.