Amit Shah, the controversial but dynamic general secretary of the BJP, is set to take over as president of the party in place of the incumbent Rajnath Singh who is now Home Minister in the Modi Cabinet. The final nod for Shah’s elevation is to be given by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. The RSS senior leadership met in Chittor, Rajasthan, today to discuss the issue.
This comes even as there is a shadow cast by the ongoing case against him in connection with the Gujarat alleged fake encounter deaths of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and wife Kauserbi in 2005 and the killing of witness Tulsiram Prajapati in 2006. Just days ago, the CBI judge in the case — who was tranferred from Mumbai to Pune today — pulled him up for non-appearance in the court.
Shah scored over the other potential candidates Jagat Prakash Nadda from Himachal Pradesh and Om Mathur from Rajasthan. Nadda is also a party general secretary but far more low key than Shah. Mathur, who has worked with Modi in Gujarat, is, like the other two, a favourite of the Prime Minister. What made Shah the popular choice was his remarkable success in the UP parliamentary polls and his organizational skills.
The BJP won 71 of the 80 Parliamentary seats and its ally picked up two more seats. It was felt that Shah commanded the necessary authority for the post and was not likely to be overawed by presumed seniority of party leaders.
This was borne out by his role as UP in charge during the election campaign. In UP, Shah had successfully ensured that he had his way in the selection of party candidates despite protests from many state level leaders. Shah, who worked closely with Modi as home minister in Gujarat was handpicked by Modi to handle UP.
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The RSS had initial reservations over Shah’s elevation because it felt that both prime minister and party president should not be from the same state. However, this obstacle seems to have been now set aside and the example of the Congress party is being cited, where the party president and the prime minister were both from the same state of Uttar Pradesh. Kamlapati Tripathi was working president of the Congress when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister.
It is believed that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had reservations over Shah’s appointment. L K Advani was also not in favour of Shah’s elevation. However, most in the party do not believe that the fact that Shah is still an accused in the Sohrabuddin encounter case will be a drawback. It is felt that the CBI does not have a strong case against the former Gujarat home minister.
Shah’s organisational skills will be of immense value to the party in the forthcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir this year and its objective to further consolidate its position in West Bengal, Assam and Andhra.