Absconding Gujarat minister Amit Anilchandra Shah, 46, is not considered Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s closest aide and chief troubleshooter for nothing.
Apart from being the state’s junior home minister — Modi himself is the senior home minister — Shah handles nine other departments, including law, jails, prohibition, police housing, parliamentary affairs, transport.
“After Modi, it’s Amitbhai whose say is important in the state cabinet,” a senior official said, adding, “Amitbhai can interfere in any department, in any file. No secretary or minister can raise any objection because he apparently does everything under the CM’s instruction.”
Shah has been minister of state for home ever since BJP, under Modi’s leadership, won a landslide victory in the assembly polls in December 2002.
Modi spotted Shah’s ‘talents’ when the former was a general secretary of the Gujarat unit of the BJP in the late 1980s. Their ties still continue.
Shah’s talents included playing a crucial role in engineering the unceremonious removal of Keshubhai Patel from the CM’s office in October 2001, when Modi was made CM by the BJP.
“Shah activated the state’s entire intelligence network to spy on Keshubhai and other dissident BJP leaders. Their phones were tapped, their movements were tracked and their business and other dealings were under surveillance,” said former chief minister Suresh Mehta of the Congress.
“Modi successfully maintained a clean public image because he delegated all the dirty work to Shah, who executed it with ruthlessness,” Mehta added.
Shah began to wield considerable clout in the state government soon after Modi became CM, but was yet to be given a ministership.
The communal riots of 2002 and the subsequent assembly elections saw Shah emerge as a key handler of crucial cases that could hurt his mentor.
Shah began his stint in the government as junior home minister in December 2002. His tenure saw the Ahmedabad police carrying out more than 18 ‘encounters’, including the fake ones involving Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Tulsi Prajapati and Ishrat Jahan.