Newsmaker: Hungry to win
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Slowly, since taking over the presidentship of the BJP, he has built a formidable reputation for micromanaging elections. Nothing is left to chance

The victory in Karnataka is not only another jewel in the Prime Minister’s crown but also a personal milestone for BJP president Amit Shah who has grown out of the image of being Narendra Modi’s closest ally in the party to establish himself as the tallest BJP leader after his mentor.

When he became party chief, Shah drew his power from Modi. He has since grown in stature to be become the Prime Minister’s main strength.

The addition of the 21st state in the BJP’s kitty extends Shah’s record-breaking winning spree. His tenure will definitely go down as one of the most successful stints of a president of any political party. The man is evidently on a mission. In his own words, he wants to see the BJP winning every election: from the ones to panchayats to Parliament. He has walked his talk.

Formidable reputation

Shah is handing Modi state after state to rule. His hold over the BJP’s organisation is unparalleled. Slowly, since taking over the presidentship of the BJP, he has built a formidable reputation for micromanaging elections. Nothing is left to chance. Insiders say that he monitors every single detail, even those pertaining to door-to-door campaigning. His credentials as a shrewd politician were already established. Now, the success in Karnataka has catapulted him into another league, one that sees him becoming Modi’s successor.

Shah was at the forefront of the campaign in Karnataka holding a series of rallies and roadshows drawing massive crowds even before Modi landed to deliver the conclusive punch in the final leg of the campaign. He epitomises the essential 24x7 politician. Even a day before the Karnataka results were declared, Shah held a meeting of the BJP’s state unit heads and office-bearers to announce the launch of the campaign for the general elections due next year. In his address, he stressed on the significance of organisational strength and highlighted that one of the main reasons for the Congress party’s downfall was internal collapse.

Under Shah’s leadership, the BJP has grown into the world’s largest political entity with a record number of members. After the victory in Karnataka, the party is hoping to shed the image of being a north Indian phenomenon and hopes to expand its footprint across southern India – the BJP now rules most of the country except Kerala and states along the entire eastern coast from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Orissa to West Bengal. The road to the peninsula leads through Bangalore and regional satraps in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Orissa, the Left government in Kerala and the Dravidian chieftains in Tamil Nadu are already facing the heat from the BJP. In Andhra Pradesh, the BJP is challenging old ally N. Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party, and in Telangana it is pitched against the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti. The Biju Janata Dal in Orissa has a job at hand to keep an aggressive BJP at bay. The battle in Kerala is becoming bloody, just like in West Bengal where Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is holding fort. Knowing Shah, he has already moved on from Karnataka and started campaigns for other states. West Bengal and Kerala are high on his list. There is little time to be wasted.

Aggression

His aggression has made rivals anxious and the opposition now realises that it will be difficult to take on the powerful Modi-Shah combine without remaining united. The Karnataka verdict has sounded the alarm bells for the opposition as they have realised that personal prejudices and equations will have to be sacrificed to put up a challenge against the relentless saffron surge. The BJP president, who is being hailed as a modern-day Chanakaya, has kept his cards close to his chest to deal with the possible scenario of a united opposition in the next general election.

The recent mini cabinet reshuffle had Shah’s stamp written all over. Piyush Goyal, who has been given additional charge of the crucial finance ministry in the absence of Arun Jaitley – he is recuperating from a kidney transplant surgery – is a close confidant of Shah. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who got independent charge of the information and broadcasting portfolio, is also close to the party president. Down the line, the string of political successes has rejuvenated the party workers. A fully-charged organisation places the BJP far ahead of the opposition in terms of the morale of the foot soldiers. Naturally, he commands of the party workers like none of his illustrated predecessors, including LK Advani at the peak of his popularity. Going up the hierarchy, tall leaders like Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley fade in front of Shah’s firm grip on the organisation. He has peaked just at the right time – as Modi prepares to launch a massive campaign to seek a second term in office. In the battle of Modi versus all, Shah will steer Modi’s chariot.

Columnist: 
Gautam Datt