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BJP’s master strategist, Amit Shah

LiveMint logoLiveMint 16-05-2014 Maulik Pathak

New Delhi: Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi may have emerged as the tallest politician of our country. But the man who scripted Bharatiya Janata Party’s stunning sweep in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, helping the party cross the magical figure of 272 on its own, is Amit Shah.

Shah, who has been a trusted aide of Modi for many years, has handed the BJP 71 seats out of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh in 2014 as per trends. That compares with the dismal tally of just 10 in the previous Lok Sabha election.

Shah, 50, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, joined Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a volunteer at an early age. He later worked as a stock broker for some time before being picked by BJP leader L.K. Advani, for whom he campaigned at Gandhinagar in 1991 and later on campaigned for Atal Bihari Vajapayee.

In December 2002, he was re-elected in his own assembly seat Sarkhej by a huge margin of over 150,000 votes. In 2003, after BJP won Gujarat state elections under the leadership of Modi, Shah was inducted as the youngest minister in the cabinet.

Modi gave him as many as 10 portfolios, including home. Soon he became a trusted aide of Modi. He was seen as the most powerful man in Modi’s state cabinet alongside revenue minister Anandiben Patel.

Some describe Shah as a modern-day Chanakya. Shah faced a two-year banishment from Gujarat in 2010 by the Supreme Court in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case.

“This is when he utilised his time and channelized his energies positively by making several visits to Uttar Pradesh to understand the ground level situation and met experts in Delhi to plan for the 2014 elections,” said a person close to Shah who did not wish to be identified.

Shah did not respond to calls made on his phone. When Shah was put in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP cadre were in a state of disarray, a BJP politician in Gujarat said. He too did not want to be named.

With 11 months to go for the general elections, Shah managed to revive the party cadre and reactivated many from the RSS who joined him in the electoral fight.

Shah worked around the fact that elections in the state were largely caste dominated. He gave about 50% of the tickets in the non-SC/ST category to OBCs representing all major OBC sub-sections, said the politician cited earlier.

He is known for his micro-planning and booth-committee management.

His master stroke is said to be in selecting the Hindu holy city of Varanasi as the seat for Modi. This created a huge effect across the state and reaped benefits in nearby Bihar.

Initially, Shah did raise the Ram Temple issue in his campaign speeches and said the party will build the temple in Ayodhya if voted to power. It is part of the party’s poll manifesto. He, however, then shifted to development and projection of Modi as the prime minister of the country. He also raked some controversy for his badla (revenge) and protecting izzat (honour) remark for which he faced a temporary ban from the Election Commission.

From a soft-spoken leader, Shah has also grown as an orator in this elections and has became a crowd puller.

In Gandhinagar political circles, there is a buzz that Shah may be part of Modi’s office in Delhi. Patel, 73, is likely to succeed Modi as chief minister of Gujarat and Shah could replace her after a few years after he clears his name in the alleged fake encounter cases.

He recently got a clean chit from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the alleged encounter killling of Mumbai student Ishrat Jahan.

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