With the BJP making a stunning return to power winning 303 seats on its own, the future role of its president Amit Shah, who strategised and delivered a second wave in favour of Narendra Modi, has become the talking point in political circles.
Speculation is rife that he will join the next Modi cabinet and could be the second in command. Senior BJP leaders say they have no clue about Shah’s future plans, that he and Modi have not dropped any hint. But at least three leaders The Indian Express spoke to said Shah could join the government because “he has delivered the maximum” as party chief.
If Shah joins the government, he is likely to get a key portfolio, one that will ensure he is part of the Cabinet Committee on Security, the most elite club of the government.
But this will leave the post of party president open.
Contrary to the earlier practice of the BJP awaiting signals from its ideological parent RSS, the current party leadership, which navigated the BJP to make it the largest political party in the world and led it to a historic electoral victory, may not be taking instructions from the Sangh, pointed out a senior party leader. “But they will definitely seek blessings from the RSS leadership for their decisions,” the leader said.
Shah took over as BJP president in July 2015 after predecessor Rajnath Singh joined the government as Union Home Minister. Shah was re-elected unanimously as president in January 2016 and his three-year term ended this January, but he was asked to continue till completion of the Lok Sabha elections.
Although names have not been suggested so far for the post, the criteria is more or less clear, a party leader said. With Shah and Modi emerging as an extremely successful partnership, the new party president will have to be able to work with Modi and his style of functioning. Shah successfully built a robust organisation and brought in a new working style, and kept the focus on the party’s expansion and electoral victories.
For Shah, the BJP’s growth plan is still incomplete despite its stellar performance in the north, east and west of the country. It is still to come up as a formidable political force in the southern states, Karnataka being the only exception.
The impressive win in the election seems to be ironing out differences within. Modi and Shah Friday paid visits to two party veterans, L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, who were denied tickets this election. After the meeting, news agency ANI quoted Joshi saying, “It is our party culture to meet and take blessings of senior leaders to work more effectively in the future. Both of them did a good job and have achieved a magical victory.”
The Prime Minister posted photos of the visits on social media. This time, Shah contested from Advani’s Gandhinagar constituency, and won by a margin of 5.57 lakh votes.
Amidst speculation on who all could be part of the second Modi government, the one name that has been doing the rounds since Thursday is that of Smriti Irani who became the “giant slayer”, defeating Congress president Rahul Gandhi in his stronghold Amethi after 15 years.
Within the party, Irani’s victory is being compared to that of Raj Narain when he vanquished Indira Gandhi, Rahul’s grandmother, in the 1977 elections after the Emergency. Textile Minister in the outgoing government, Irani is expected to be given a key role in the government, sources said.
With the resignation of the Council of Ministers Friday, BJP leaders are closely watching the role ahead for Sushma Swaraj who is currently not a member of either House. Citing health reasons, Swaraj had declared before the election that she would not contest this time.