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Anandiben Patel And Amit Shah: From Invincible To Vulnerable

Sutanu Guru analyses how recent developments, including the exit of Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel have raised questions over the ability of Amit Shah to win elections for the BJP

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Three interesting, and possibly game changing developments were reported in the last two days: two of them linked to BJP president Amit Shah directly or indirectly. The first news came from the Supreme Court which refused to reopen criminal cases against Amit Shah for his alleged role in the Sohrabuddin encounter case. This was vindication and victory for Shah and BJP supporters who feel he was unfairly targeted and hounded by the previous UPA regime to try and "fix" his mentor Prime Minister Modi who was the Gujarat chief minister at the time of the Sohrabuddin encounter killing. Amit Shah was the home minister. Under normal circumstances, there would have been jubilation and chest thumping in the BJP camp. Hordes of BJP supporters and Modi Bhakts would have taken to social media to excoriate the "secular liberals" who have been hounding Modi and Shah. Many did. But the celebrations were unusually quiet.

The reason: there were two other developments that would give sleepless nights to Amit Shah. The first was a report from Agra where Amit Shah was scheduled to address a huge rally of almost 50,000 Dalits. This was to try and reconnect with the community after atrocities on Dalits in Gujarat had triggered a wave of anger in the community. But according to a report in The Indian Express, Amit Shah had to cancel the rally because the BJP completely failed to mobilize and gather enough Dalits. According to the newspaper, the planned rally of 50,000 became a gathering of about 500 at a seminar hall. This must be ringing alarm bells in the top echelons of the BJP. A key reason for Narendra Modi led BJP winning a majority in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was its performance in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP and allies won 73 out of 80 seats in the state and about 24% of the Dalit vote. If angry Dalits move away from the party in the 2017 assembly elections, the BJP would have no chance whatsoever of winning the state. In fact, many analysts have already declared that BJP is in for a drubbing in the state.

The third development would be of equal concern to Shah as well as Modi. Just as BJP supporters were celebrating the Supreme Court verdict in favor of Shah came news that a "bitter, agonized and angry" Anandiben Patel used social media to submit her resignation as the chief minister of Gujarat. Her exit was widely expected and anticipated. Anandiben had failed to "manage" the Patel Patidar agitation that raged across Gujarat in 2015, creating a Patel rebel folk hero in the form of Hardik Patel. The impact of this was was seen in local body elections the same year when the Congress party staged an unexpected and spectacular comeback in rural Gujarat. The latest atrocity against Dalits in Una where they were publicly flogged by cow vigilante goons further exposed the weakness of Anandiben. Dalits in Gujarat have openly revolted and given out a clear message to the BJP that their support can no longer be taken for granted in assembly elections due in late 2017. If a large section of Patels and Dalits desert the BJP, the unthinkable would become possible. The BJP, which has ruled Gujarat since 1995, might actually lose the state. Both Amit Shah and Narendra Modi come from Gujarat and the personal humiliation for them would be huge. So would be the implications at the national political level.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2014 elections, Amit Shah was projected as a magical and ruthless strategist who could do no wrong. That halo of invincibility was stripped in 2015 when the BJP was humiliated by voters of Delhi and Bihar. Something worse could be in store in 2017 for Amit Shah.

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politics amit shah narendra modi anandiben patel