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Saturday, Aug 17, 2019

Book reveals Amit Shah’s strategy, and the phone call that he doesn’t miss

The book ‘Amit Shah and the March of BJP’ talks about Union Minister Amit Shah’s emphasis on outreach through extensive travel, and ability to mobilise as an organiser during his early years in politics.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2019 20:57 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP National Working President JP Nadda arrive at the Parliament House during the Budget session in New Delhi on July 6, Thursday.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP National Working President JP Nadda arrive at the Parliament House during the Budget session in New Delhi on July 6, Thursday. (ANI Photo)

Amit Shah’s visit to Kashmir in June was his first visit to the Valley as Union home minister, but it wasn’t his first engagement with the troubled state. Shah was one of the key organisers of the Ekta Yatra undertaken in 1991 by his senior colleague, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the time.

Shah played a “crucial part in mobilising and galvanising workers for the Yatra,” says a newly released book on Shah, titled Amit Shah and the March of BJP, written by Anirban Ganguly and Shiwanand Dwivedi.

The 47-day Yatra culminated in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk, where Joshi hoisted the tricolour. Narendra Modi also played a pivotal role as an organiser of the journey.

According to the book, two yatras — the Rath Yatra led by LK Advani in 1990 to press for the construction of a Ram temple on a disputed site in Ayodhya and Joshi’s Ekta Yatra of 1991 to espouse national unity — left a deep impression on Shah and further shaped his ideological orientation.

“The Ekta Yatra, on its part, had embedded the philosophy of the nation first, and the need to protect India’s integrity at any cost, deep in his psyche and political conviction,” the book says.

Ganguly and Dwivedi claim that Shah’s success as a booth-level functionary saw him being chosen as Ahmedabad city secretary of the BJP in 1989. It was from this position that Shah got involved in the world of yatras; “his deft mobilisation and publicity campaign” for the Ekta Yatra catapulted him into the public eye, the book says.

The book offers an insight into the early days of the BJP president and how his ideology was shaped by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor. It focuses in large part on Shah’s emphasis on outreach through extensive travel.

Also Read| Amit Shah’s Valley challenge: Avoiding unilateral forced constitutional measures

The book highlights how, in his quest to expand the BJP’s footprint, Shah covered more than 790,000 kilometres between August 2014 and September 2018, undertaking major public outreach programmes. The average distance covered by him during this period was about 519 km a day. There are many more aspects to it other than distance that are of interest to the party worker as well as a political researcher.

It also explores in great detail the planning that went into expanding the BJP’s footprint in states such as Kerala and West Bengal where the BJP had an almost negligible support base.

The book, which traces the rise of Shah in 14 chapters, gives nuggets of information about his personal life: how he makes it a point to listen to his granddaughter Rudri’s laughter over the phone at the end of the day, for instance, or his love of cricket and chess. It also sketches his early days as a foot soldier of the BJP, starting at the age of 13 in the campaign team of Maniben Patel (Sardar Patel’s daughter) during the Lok Sabha polls of 1977.

The period between 2010 and 2012 has been described as the “most challenging years” for Shah, who was imprisoned in 2010 after being accused of having orchestrated the extrajudicial killings of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi in 2005. He was cleared of all charges in 2014 by a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court , which found the case to be “politically motivated”.

The book also offers a glimpse of how Shah planned and executed the party’s stellar performance in the electorally crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, which elects 80 of the 543 members of Parliament, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP won 71 seats in UP, which carried it to a majority on its own in Parliament Shah was in 2013 appointed as BJP’s in-charge of UP.

Also Read| Will form govts in south soon: Shah

“Amidst all the euphoria and praise, one question that was repeatedly asked was how did Amit Shah so accurately analyse the situation in UP and feel its pulse just within a year? In fact, without wasting a single minute, Shah had visited almost all fifty-two districts as soon as he had taken over the reins in UP, travelling for 142 days at a stretch. Travelling about 93,000 kms, Shah drew up a detailed contact and communication campaign for booth workers across all the Lok Sabha seats in the state,” the authors write in the chapter titled Mission UP .

First Published: Jul 12, 2019 18:02 IST

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