Amit Shah’s elevation as president of the BJP is certain to bring new dynamism in the party that was suffering due to lethargy and absence of strong organisational network. The party needed a dynamic leader who would work single-mindedly to strengthen the BJP’s roots across the nation.
The second dimension to his elevation is re-assessment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personality by his critics. I used to disagree with my friends in the media who said Modi would never accept Amit Shah as party president, Amitbhai being a strong personality. With one stroke, Modi has given a death blow to this theory. His critics would do well to make a fresh assessment on why those who lost in the race should not be used to paint a negative image for Modi.
Modi has been rewarding performance and loyalty. Absence of either would create problems. If a person is very efficient but not loyal to the ideology and its leaders, that person could be a dangerous weapon. If one is loyal but not efficient, he becomes a liability in any case. In fact, Modi lauded Shah as an efficient party worker who got the BJP and allies 73 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections. By elevating him to the top post, he has shown to the world that performance would be rewarded.
Many of Modi’s supporters in the social media were extremely supportive of Shah and they wanted to see him as party president. One thing was common between them and Modi: a desire to see the BJP flag flutter everywhere and to get the Congress and the Left decimated before they re-emerged to stage a comeback. For this to happen, the NDA and the BJP must play a longer innings and not just a 5-year term at the Centre.
The Modi magic of 2014 may or may not hold in 2019 since the prime minister will have to take some hard decisions. The BJP’s magic may ensure a smooth sailing in 2019 if the machinery is well oiled and warmed up for the challenge. Shah’s elevation is expected to induct new dynamism to increase ideological expansion and contain dissent in the field.
There are geographical areas that need consolidation. States such as Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh need the party to build itself brick by brick. The challenge in Kerala is to break political polarisation on religious lines; in Tamil Nadu it is to increase acceptability of a party seen as a party of the Hindi belt, and in Andhra Pradesh the challenge is to infuse a hard dose of nationalism that would overpower the regional divide. In West Bengal the task is to consolidate the party’s support base and to tackle rigging and violence without being violent by projecting a bhadralok (gentleman) image. The challenge is also how to build a strong party in Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand. The party has marginal presence in Assemblies of the North-Eastern States. Will Shah magic work?
Further, for many reforms to take place, the BJP must acquire power at the State level. Many issues of reforms such as police and education fall under the State list. In the federal structure reforms are very difficult to implement. Shah and the BJP’s rise would ensure a chance to the country to witness reforms in all walks of government and administration.
Those who are stunned by Shah’s elevation must recall that he has been an organisational man all through. Along with Modi, he was instrumental in strengthening the roots of the BJP in Gujarat. He had demolished the Congress’ strongholds in the cooperatives there. They must remember that here is a person who has the capacity and the desire to scale new heights by dint of his hard work, vision and action. This is not a gamble but cool calculations of Modi and the RSS. The Congress and the Left parties would definitely have problems now to contain the saffron juggernaut.