He was sent to Uttar Pradesh with a purpose – win the state for the Bharatiya Janata Party. He’s delivered, and how.
When 49-year-old Amit Shah, BJP prime minister-in-waiting Narendra Modi’s Man Friday and handpicked lieutenant, was dispatched to India’s most populous state, last July, the odds were stacked heavily against him.
The BJP had been out of power in the state for 17 years, it didn’t have any political face that could appeal to all sections of the electorate, the party had not fought village pradhan, district and local elections for the past 12 years and the Shah himself was completely unknown in this caste-ridden politically sensitive state.
This was not all.
Shah told Hindustan Times that 42% of the vote belonging to Yadav-Muslim-Jatav communities was out of reach.
"The Samajwadi Party had been able to achieve full polarisation of the minority community before the elections. During the elections, we witnessed an all-party tactical alliance against the BJP in the last four election phases," he said.
Despite the odds, Shah was able to nearly triple the BJP’s vote share – from 15% in the 2012 Assembly elections to around 40% this time – and take its seats tally to more than 60 (at 10.30 am).
The key to BJP's extraordinary victory in UP was the way Shah managed to over-ride the vested interests of state leaders and ensure that ticket distribution was based purely on merit, caste combinations and winnability of the candidates. Consider this:
* For the first time, the BJP gave 27 seats, including one to Modi in Varanasi, to candidates from Other Backward Castes despite strong opposition from upper caste leaders of the state. This one move brought back the indifferent OBCs to the BJP.
* Except for nine leaders, including Gen VK Singh, Hema Malini, Smriti Irani and Rajnath Singh,, the remaining 71 seats were given to candidates who belonged and had vote in the same constituency.
* Except for the Chandouli and Ghosi candidates, no tickets were given to those who had lost elections thrice.
Shah criss-crossed the state, logging 93,000 km by rail and car, in addition to flying 30,000 km by aircraft. "I have gone back to my home in Ahmedabad for only 20 days in the past one year and have spent 142 nights in UP organising the elections," he said.
No wonder Shah enjoys the absolute trust of Modi, party president Rajnath Singh and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley for his political insight and organization skills.
What next for this poll manager extraordinaire?
There is a strong possibility that Shah may be given a significant organisational role in the BJP if party president Rajnath Singh decides to join Modi’s Cabinet.