The emphatic victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the resurgence of the Modi wave was a loud vindication of Amit Shah’s immaculate planning and backroom strategizing.
The duo form a lethal combination – almost invincible. “There is no doubt that Modi is India’s most popular leader and national figure. Translating his personal popularity into a political victory... requires planning and execution to the last detail. Shah has done that to near perfection,” a BJP official told Reuters.
Amit Shah was made president of the BJP in 2014. After the victory of the saffron party, he harvested Modi’s popularity and translated it into victories in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana in the same year.
In the first year after being appointed as party chief, he revitalized the party, launching campaigns to increase support base. He then resolved to take the party ideology to the booth level.
In 2018, he broke into the CPI (M) citadel Tripura and wrested the Left bastion to form the government in the northeastern state.
Shah played a key role in delivering 312 of the 403 seats in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections – yet another sweeping victory – after which, he was adjudged 'Man of the Match' by Modi.
This time around, his political mind had calculated that the BJP might not be able to repeat their tallies in the Hindi heartland states, so he decided to offset his losses by making gains in states where the BJP had a weaker hold.
BJP’s Chanakya and his Arthashastra
Amit Shah chose to focus on the 120 seats that the BJP had lost in 2014 despite an omnipresent Modi wave, a report from The Times of India suggested. His strategy was to divide these constituencies into 25 clusters and place them each under a senior party member. The saffron party then focused on 80 of these seats and locked in more than half of them.
His resolve and dedication helped the party accomplish ‘Operation Coromandel’, which was breaking through regional fortresses in West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana. The party even came close to making gains in Kerala.
A diabetic on insulin thrice a day, Amit Shah worked relentlessly. He travelled 150,000 km to address 161 public rallies during the election, of which 84 were only in Bengal.
According to a report in The Times of India, 161 call centres were set up across the country to turn the goodwill of beneficiaries of various central schemes into votes. It managed to reach an overwhelming majority of 24.71 crore beneficiaries.
He asked party workers to remain unfazed by the SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh and focus on politics of 50 percent votes.
Then, he did something that the party’s arch nemesis failed at miserably – stitching alliances – patching up with bickering allies and ensuring pragmatic success.
The Sangh Factor
A wide rift had appeared between the RSS and the BJP during the Vajpayee government, and it deepened when LK Advani (then Home Minister) failed to negotiate terms with National Liberation Front of Tripura, leading to the death of four RSS pracharaks.
This was one contributing factor for Vajpayee’s loss in 2004. When Modi came to power in 2014, Amit Shah ensured that this gap was bridged. He understood that a synergy between the Sangh and BJP was crucial in order to get the support of millions of devoted foot soldiers for Campaign Modi.
Shah attended every meeting and brainstorming session of the RSS untiringly and dedicatedly. The result — Modi became the tallest symbol of Hindu nationalism.
On the policy front, the BJP rolled out many policies that appealed to the Sangh sentiment, such as protection of cows. In return, the party got the loyalty of a vast network of preachers, who wield an enormous clout at the local level.
The strategy was to portray the Opposition as weak and indecisive at best and appeasing minorities, particularly Muslims, at worst. His efforts blunted issues such as lack of jobs and farm distress, and the Opposition faced an insulting injury.
After presiding over the BJP with an iron fist for five years, Amit Shah might be looking at a top post in the Modi cabinet this time, especially now that he has won the Gandhinagar seat in Gujarat with a whopping margin of over 3 lakh votes.