While BJP president Amit Shah on Monday quashed the speculation that he will join the Union Cabinet following his election to Rajya Sabha from Gujarat, party leaders say his expected entry to the Upper House is just as significant — both for the BJP and for Shah himself.
For the NDA, which is a minority in the Upper House, Shah’s presence is expected to smoothen coordination among BJP allies. “For the party, his presence in Parliament adds to the political weight,” a senior BJP leader said. “For Shah, who has until now been presented as an election-winning machinery, this would be an opportunity to enhance his national presence as a policy person.”
According to several BJP leaders, the entry of the party’s most visible and successful backroom boy into the House of Elders is not a surprise. “It was bound to happen,” one senior party leader said. “He is a national leader and can no longer be in the (Gujarat) Assembly. So Rajya Sabha is the right place for him.” Shah has been a legislator in Gujarat Assembly since 1997, but he is not known to be sterling as a legislator. Politicians loved him and hated him for his role as the party’s master strategist. The Rajya Sabha term would be useful for him to make the “right interventions” in policy decisions, legislation and even the debates, party leaders said.
BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav, who has worked closely with Shah for years, said, “He is a studious person. His experience in the Assembly and national politics will be advantageous to the party’s position in Parliament. His presence will enrich the BJP in the Upper House.” Yadav said Shah is expected to take part in key debates in the House.
Rajeev Chandrashekhar, an Independent Rajya Sabha MP who is closely associated with the BJP, said: “Amit Shah’s entry into Rajya Sabha signals the imminent assertive politics of BJP and the NDA in the Upper House. Venkaiah-ji’s (M Venkaiah Naidu, the NDA’s Vice Presidential candidate) departure also means there is a gap in senior leaders in the House, which will get addressed.”
Sources in BJP said Shah would like to enhance his image as a national leader. His voice was always heard as BJP president, but being an MP would add more weight to it. “He can gradually bring up his image as a policymaker, rather being just a party man,” said senior BJP leader and a Rajya Sabha member. Shah may have made BJP the largest political party in the world, with more than 11 crore members, made it almost invincible and reduced rivals to “also-rans”, but many party leaders say he is yet to be acknowledged as a tall political leader who earns respect cutting across party lines.
Stating that the national media has “never done justice to Shah”, the party Rajya Sabha MP said, “His image is still not very respectable as a leader. In Rajya Sabha, he will be able to interact with Parliamentarians, will be more accessible to MPs, and will be able to coordinate with NDA partners.” Asserting that coordination among the allies will be smoother in Parliament with Shah present as an MP, the leader said, “His presence will have a great impact on the number-game in the Upper House.”
The government has faced many nervous moments in Rajya Sabha while legislating key Bills and in crucial debates due to the absence of majority. The government had to work extra hard on floor management. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, however, pointed out that Shah helped his ministry even as a non-MP. “He always played a role in ensuring the presence of party MPs, and getting adequate strength for passage of important Bills,” Naqvi said.
BJP leaders also said Shah’s presence would make MPs more cautious of their roles in Parliament. According to party MP Vinay Katiyar, Shah can push the BJP to be stronger in Parliament. “Personally for Amit Shah, he will be more audible to the world,” Katiyar said.