South Asian Insider
Watch out for Amit Shah 2.0
(Insider Bureau) New Delhi - Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah filed his nomination as the party’s Lok Sabha candidate from Gandhinagar on Saturday. Mr Shah’s nomination is from a seat laced with political symbolism; party elder LK Advani represented the constituency for decades. The BJP president is already a member of the Rajya Sabha, but his decision to throw his hat into electoral politics directly is filled with meaning about his future ambitions. The fact that he did so accompanied by both top BJP leaders, as well as a range of National Democratic Alliance partners, is also a signal of a new political avatar he is seeking to embrace. Mr Shah came into national prominence because he shepherded the BJP campaign in Uttar Pradesh 2014, helping the party sweep the polls. The success, and his proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, catapulted him to the top of the party. Since then, notwith standing setbacks such as losses in Bihar, Delhi and more recently the three assembly elections at the end of 2018, Mr Shah has emerged as the key organisational strategist of the party, and the second most powerful politician in India. But it is clear that Mr Shah's ambitions do not end here. By directly entering the Lok Sabha fray, Mr Shah wants to establish himself independently as a mass leader and not just a behind-the-scenes player. While this election is crucial for Mr Modi, it is perhaps just as crucial for Mr Shah. A defeat, although one is unlikely, will probably cause a major setback to his political career; a win will open up doors, including for senior cabinet responsibilities and future leadership. But what was as striking was that Mr Shah choose to portray an inclusive image in Gandhinagar on Saturday. This is the BJP's citadel; it needs no allies here. Yet, Uddhav Thackeray, who has had a rather acrimonious relationship with Mr Shah in the past; Ram Vilas Paswan; and Parkash Singh Badal were there to show support. So were the BJP's top ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Nitin Gadkari. Mr Shah has a reputation for being arrogant. But here he was clearly projecting himself as an accommodative leader with friends. This is in tune with the BJP's own approach to allies in the past few months. Based on the recognition that it may need partners post polls, the party has stitched up multiple deals on generous terms to smaller players. Amit Shah 2.0 will be a key figure to watch out for in this election.
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