The ascendancy of Amit Shah | HT editorial
He is proving to be an effective MP, gaining mass acceptabilityUpdated: Aug 08, 2019 19:25 IST
Between 2014 and 2019, there was a clear division of labour between the two most powerful leaders in India. Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi was the face of the government and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He focused on policy, and his brand fetched the party rich electoral dividends. Party president Amit Shah focused on strengthening the organisational machine, and ensured that Mr Modi’s appeal translated into votes at the booth-level. There is no doubt that Mr Modi remains the boss, and it his faith in him that continues to drive the electorate into voting for the BJP. But, in his second term, there has been a subtle shift in Mr Shah’s role and how he is now being perceived.
Lauded for his impressive managerial skills, Mr Shah lacked two key elements so far. The first was parliamentary experience. He became a member of the Rajya Sabha only in 2017. And this is his first time in the Lok Sabha. But if one feature stood out in the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha, it was Mr Shah’s emergence as an effective and strong parliamentarian. He gave two significant policy speeches on Jammu and Kashmir in July — which provided a hint of things to come. He piloted two bills to strengthen the National Investigative Agency and expand the ambit of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act — these amendments have triggered concerns about possible misuse, but got passed comfortably in both the houses. And most crucially, he shepherded the drastic constitutional changes with regard to J&K — ending the state’s special status, bifurcating it, and reducing it to a Union Territory. Mr Shah remained in the house, replied to opponents, and constructed a strong case. His stamp over the ideological, political and legislative victory was stark.
This has also helped him, slowly, overcome the second gap in his political portfolio. Mr Shah has not been a mass leader with a national footprint. Over the past five years, he has, of course, come to be recognised across the country. He also developed deep links with BJP workers with his extensive travels. And while he was at the forefront of the campaign in 2019, addressing multiple rallies every day, it was Mr Modi’s name which drove voters to the party. By now emerging as the clear number two in the government, and enabling changes like the one in Kashmir — which has widespread popular backing in the rest of the country, even if its fallout in the Valley is yet to be seen — Mr Shah is gaining public traction. Make no mistake: it is Mr Modi’s faith in him and his skills, and Mr Shah’s absolute loyalty to the PM, which has enabled this. And the two continue to work in synergy. But from being a behind-the-scenes party manager, Shah’s emergence as a public face and the second most powerful voice in government and Parliament will have implications for the BJP’s internal power balance in the future.
First Published: Aug 08, 2019 19:24 IST