BJP president Amit Shah was elected unopposed to the top post for a second term on Sunday, ending speculation about the RSS’s wavering faith in the ruling party’s current leadership.
But for the absence of its veterans — ‘margdarshaks’ or guiding lights LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi —celebrations at the party headquarters decked out for Shah’s coronation were excellent.
The two senior leaders had questioned the party leadership after the Bihar poll debacle, suggesting a course correction. But their reservation found little support with the RSS leadership that decided to place its trust in Shah, again. But Shah drove to Advani’s home late in the evening to seek his blessing and is likely to meet Joshi on Tuesday.
The RSS, the BJP’s ideological mentor, clearly wanted to give Shah the time he needed to execute ambitious programmes for expanding the party’s footprint across the country, especially when assembly polls were due in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The Sangh agreed that Shah was best suited to face the critical electoral challenges lined up for the next three years, despite the humiliation the BJP faced in Delhi and Bihar in 2015.
Shah’s immediate challenge is to win election-bound Assam, pick up seats in West Bengal, and make inroads in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. But his organisational skills would be put to test in next year’s assembly polls in UP that he won for Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Another key challenge would be to retain Gujarat in 2018 without Modi as CM.
Party leaders remained optimistic with Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu capturing the mood. “The combination of PM Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah will do wonders in the coming years. I am sure he will get the needed success in the coming elections,” he said.
When Shah drove into the BJP headquarters on Sunday, workers danced to drumbeats and burst crackers to welcome him. Chief ministers of BJP-ruled states and most ministers in the Union council were in attendance when Shah filed his nomination papers.
Altogether, 17 nominations were filed proposing 51-year-old Shah’s name during the three-hour exercise. Modi congratulated Shah on his election and expressed confidence that the party will scale newer heights under his leadership. “Amit Bhai combines grassroot-level work & rich organisational experience which will benefit the Party immensely,” he tweeted.
This will be the first full three-year term for Shah, seen to have Modi’s full backing, as he had taken over as the party chief in July 2014 from Rajnath Singh who joined the government.