After weeks of speculation, Amit Shah, a Narendra Modi loyalist who scripted the BJP’s spectacular electoral win in Uttar Pradesh, was Wednesday named its new president, with party leaders voicing confidence that he will take the ruling party to greater success.
Prime Minister Modi, who counts the 49-year-old Shah amongst his closest confidants, said Shah’s elevation would help the Bharatiya Janata Party to further expand its influence across the country.
Referring to him as “Amit Bhai”, Modi said the former minister of state for home in Gujarat took to politics “as an ordinary ‘karyakarta’ and has repeatedly proven himself through tireless hard work and determination”.
Presently a general secretary, Shah succeeds Rajnath Singh, the home minister in Modi’s government who made the widely anticipated announcement about Shah after a meeting of the BJP’s parliamentary board.
Once this was done, a beaming Shah accepted sweets and bouquets from party colleagues including Modi, Rajnath Singh, L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
“Amit Shah is the new president,” Rajnath Singh told the media as Modi and Shah looked on.
Rajnath Singh said Shah, a wealthy man whose family runs a successful business in PVC, was chosen for his “organisational and management skills” which were seen in Uttar Pradesh during the Lok Sabha battle.
In a stunning performance, the BJP bagged 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state after the bearded and portly Shah spearheaded the party campaign like a warrior possessed. Two more seats went to a BJP ally, Apna Dal.
The Congress and the Samajwadi Party were virtually decimated. The Bahujan Samaj Party was wiped out.
Since then, Shah — whose tenure in the Gujarat government was dogged by controversy — was widely seen as the front-runner for the top party post.
He was accused of ordering an illegal surveillance of a woman in 2009 in Gujarat alleged at the behest of Modi, the then state chief minister. Shah denied this charge.
Earlier, he was accused of orchestrating the extra-judicial killing of a criminal, Sohrabuddin Sheikh, and his wife near Gandhinagar. A witness, Tulsiram Prajapati, too was killed later.
Forced to quit the Gujarat government, Shah denied the allegations against him.
Prior to that, another police gun battle in Gujarat that killed four alleged terrorists sparked a furore after it was claimed that one of the victims, a young woman, had no terror links. The CBI gave Shah a clean chit in the case.
From the time they met in 1982, Modi and Shah became a team, quietly building up the BJP in Gujarat, transforming a state that was a Congress bastion into a BJP fortress.
First elected to the Gujarat assembly in 1997, Shah emerged over the years as Modi’s most trusted political aide. Some supporters call him charismatic and others dub him a modern day Chanakya.
On Wednesday, BJP leaders paid glowing tributes to Shah.
“He is a very good organiser, very committed… His elevation will help the BJP in social expansion and gain organisational strength,” party vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.
Balbir Punj, a BJP vice president, told IANS: “He is a very inspiring leader, very hard working. He knows all the ‘karyakartas’ (functionaries). The party will touch new heights under his leadership.”