The political scene looked nothing like the current one when he took over the BJP leadership in 2014.
There isn’t an iota of doubt that Indian politics is constantly evolving. The political system and governance are inherited by a series of changes. It is also true that the political dimension on which the systems tread has been given a totally new paradigm shift in the last 70 years by a few political personalities. But when it comes to the first two decades of the 21st century, Indian democracy’s entire system and governance has been given new dimensions by the most formidable political jodi of our times, and that is none other than Narendra Modi-Amit Shah. There are no two opinions that Mr Modi has an undisputed charm offensive and is the tallest face of the ruling party but it is also a fact that the BJP’s continuous domination on India’s political landscape is largely credited to Mr Shah since 2014.
As Mr Shah has now handed over the reins of party president of the BJP to J.P. Nadda, even the hardest critiques of Mr Shah bow to his unmatched political strategy, organisational skills and election management capabilities. A forthright leader embedded with clarity of thought is what makes Mr Shah a complete package of a CEO kind of persona for the BJP and this trait was contributory to the party becoming the largest political party of the world under his leadership. In fact, he not only transformed the BJP but along with Mr Modi, he has undoubtedly changed the political paradigm of the county after nearly three decades.
The political scene looked nothing like the current one when he took over the BJP leadership in 2014. His ability to bring about changes in traditional politics made Mr Shah emerge as a bold and powerful strategist who left other political parties watching in dismay as they lost their strong foothold one after the other in major states and felt helpless working around the new political systems.
As we draw a political histogram since 1951, the political gauge underwent a sea change when the first woman Prime Minister, the late Indira Gandhi, imposed the Emergency in 1975, resulting in a new prototype of uncompromising politics and leadership style, but it didn’t last long. The late Jayaprakash Narayan, with political and student movements, defeated the political cult of the late 1970s. Again, in 1989, former PM, the late V.P. Singh, by implementing the Mandal Commission report, turned the political dimensions and brought social and caste-based politics to the forefront. However, Mr Modi as the prime ministerial candidate and Mr Shah as in charge of Uttar Pradesh completely changed the course of the political direction of the country in 2014 by reestablishing a single party majority government after nearly three decades. When Mr Shah took over the BJP and entered the political chessboard with highly professional strategies and moves, the Opposition failed to counter them with equal agility and intelli
gence and they have no answer for the new mantras of nationalism and development — Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas, and now Sabka Vishwas.
While assessing the tenure of Mr Shah, political analysts are always amazed to see the great understanding between Mr Shah and Mr Modi as the latter handled the reins of governance. Mr Shah completely transformed the BJP as an organisation. He turned the BJP into a political workforce with agendas and added professionalism to the party’s character. Like a CEO, Mr Shah introduced and employed many management tools in the BJP so as to strengthen and manage the party’s outreach, election management, right leadership in states and of course aggressive communication strategies. All this was achieved without compromising on the BJP’s core values and beliefs.
The shareholder’s interests were never compromised for short-term gains. By identifying leaders in different states, he delegated the responsibility of each state judiciously not only to establish a strong foothold but to also keep the BJP at the winning front. The innovative concept of Panna Pramukh, which no party could ever imagine and apply, is proof of his ability to think differently. His out-of-the-box political strategy and thinking allowed the party to expand its base both geographically and numerically with 10 crore more members added during his tenure that made BJP the largest political party in the world.
Mr Shah worked upon winning elections as a crusader and his endeavours brought the desired results. His claims of winning India’s Northeastern belt were written off by experts but the same people bit the dust upon revelation of the results. The most surprising is the BJP winning 18 seats in West Bengal in the 2019 Lok Sabha election and creating history. It is because of Mr Shah’s strategy and efforts that the BJP now is the real threat for Mamata Banerjee for the 2021 Assembly elections. The BJP won Tripura when no one was ready to bet on them but the political reality of today is that the entire Northeast has become a BJP bastion where once the Congress was unchallenged.
Mr Shah’s magic spell continued as the BJP bagged Maharashtra and Jharkhand in 2015. The year 2017 saw another spate of winnings as the whole world watched: Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh fell into the BJP’s kitty. As the political pundits urged the BJP to throw in the towel, it was a bigger challenge for Mr Shah to prove himself in his home state. Yet again, by winning Gujarat, Mr Shah proved that hard work and diligence could turn the tables for anyone. On the political pitch, the BJP even lost a few wickets at New Delhi and Bihar in 2015 where Mr Shah’s strategies were counterfoiled by many factors.
Due to an economic slump and widespread unemployment, the experts again predict a fall for the BJP’s empire. But such predictions won’t dampen his spirits. Mr Shah declared a majority of above 300, which was seen as hyperbole by all and sundry. As the whole world watched and experts deliberated, Mr Shah continued his work as party president with dedication. He left no stone unturned to ensure a big win for the BJP. He took strategic decisions not only at the Assembly level but also at the grassroots, where he appointed loyal Panna Pramukhs. The Panna Pramukh model worked its wonders and the BJP again stunned sceptics and left the Opposition bereaved as the BJP crossed the 303 mark, exactly as Mr Shah had claimed.
After 2019’s big win, the managing panache of Mr Shah was revealed in the next six months as home minister when he actively participated in governance and introduced important bills, some of which had been in the party’s agenda for almost half a century. In fact, the first eight months of the Modi 2.0 government is the story of Mr Shah’s landmark decisions of scrapping Article 370, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the RTI (Amendment) Act and the triple talaq law. He made all these landmark laws sail through the Rajya Sabha despite the BJP-NDA having no clear majority in the Upper House.
Being constantly under the microscope and judged for every act, Mr Shah never relents. In the handling of Jammu and Kashmir’s affairs post the scrapping of Article 370 and in clearly announcing that the CAA will be not taken back come what may be despite ongoing protests across the country, Mr Shah has shown that he is not only a master political strategist but also a very strong, clearheaded leader. As Steve Jobs once said: “We are here to put a dent in the universe, or why else be here”. So in a way, Mr Shah is truly the Steve Jobs of the BJP, as his ideas, thoughts and designs revolutionised not only the party’s functioning but also brought a paradigm shift in Indian politics. He shattered traditions, reconstructed political modules, debunked theories and disproved political pundits. He masterminded strategies beyond anyone’s comprehension, challenged paradigms and inspired millions. It’s not a common occurrence that an emblematic force comes along and changes the world as we know it.
The writer is a political analyst and former chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Electronics Development Corporation