With polls coming up, Act Two for BJP president Amit Shah
It is appropriate that Amit Shah launches into a fresh term when the stakes are high for his party.editorials Updated: Jan 21, 2016 22:03 IST
The near-certain return of Amit Shah as president of the BJP for a full term is no surprise. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-hand man won his spurs in the Lok Sabha election of 2014, before he got the top party job, by delivering electorally critical Uttar Pradesh in a spectacular manner. Winning more than 70 of the 80 seats in the state was no mean feat, especially when seen in the light of UP’s fragmented social structure and the need to reconcile several countervailing forces.
Victories in Haryana and Maharashtra were creditable. But the party’s unexpected defeat in the UP bypolls within a few months of its resounding Lok Sabha victory and just after Mr Shah took over as party president proved to be a straw in the wind.
The year 2015 wasn’t as good a year for the party as the previous one, both from the point of view of electoral politics and the challenge it faced to its stance that it was all about progress and little else. Mr Shah had a tough time controlling his flock: BJP leaders, including those holding ministerial positions, began talking in sectarian voices and an innocent man was killed just on suspicion that he had stored beef at his house. In Delhi the party lost its own voters to the Aam Aadmi Party, and could not match the social alliance that the RJD and JD(U) had built in Bihar. There were rumblings of discontent against his leadership but the position of Mr Shah, with the patronage of his boss, was never seen in doubt.
It is appropriate that Mr Shah launches into a fresh term of three years when the stakes are high for his party. West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Assam are going to the polls this year, and though the BJP has not so far been able to make much headway in most of these states, it made some inroads into the Left and Congress bastions in the Lok Sabha elections. UP and Punjab will follow next year.
If Mr Shah lives up to the promise that he showed two years ago, he will be ending this term in 2019 on a plane that will make the BJP’s job far easier in the Lok Sabha polls due that year. For that he needs to seek more allies and take an approach that is somewhat more conciliatory towards his foes. Mr Modi’s government needs the support of its opponents to push through important bits of legislation like the goods and services tax. How Mr Shah handles his rivals inside and outside the party could determine the legacy he leaves behind.