The Rise and Rise of Mr Amit Shah
Shah cut his teeth in electioneering as a 13-year-old, when he worked for Sardar Patel’s daughter Maniben Patel’s Lok Sabha campaign in 1977
Photo Credit : PTI
There have been many claimants to Sardar Patel’s legacy in the country. The Indian National Congress, the party he belonged to, relegated him to obscurity with its focus on the Family — the Nehru-Gandhi descendents. It was not surprising then that the BJP tried to appropriate Patel—given its nationalist ideological core, and the project to unseat the Congress.
L.K. Advani, who built the modern BJP, and was home minister and deputy prime minister in the Vajpayee cabinet, wanted to model himself on Patel. He even liked to be called “Loh Purush”. His love for Jinnah, however, demolished whatever he had accumulated through his illustrious career.
Among the Gen-Next BJP leaders, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was called “Chote Sardar” by his legions of followers. Modi, who would go on to become the pivot of the BJP, apart from being possibly the longest-serving non-Congress Prime Minister, demolished the Congress using Patel’s legacy. His initiative in getting Patel’s magnificent statue built in Gujarat – which was initially scoffed at by the Congress – bears testimony to his lifelong commitment to Patel’s idea of India and nationalism.
Modi has, on various occasions, stated that had Patel been the PM, the Kashmir imbroglio would not be an issue waiting to be resolved today. In the meantime, there have been two BJP Home Ministers, post-Advani.
Rajnath Singh, a former BJP president, had a good run in the home ministry in the first Modi government, where he tackled burning issues like left-wing extremism. In Modi 2.0 dispensation, contrary to speculations, it was Amit Shah, the Modi confidant, who was elevated to the position.
Shah has an interesting background. A biography by Anirban Ganguly and Shiwanand Dwivedi, Amit Shah And The March Of The BJP notes that Shah cut his teeth in electioneering as a 13-year-old, when he worked for Sardar Patel’s daughter Maniben Patel’s Lok Sabha campaign in Mehsana in 1977. In the 1977 election, Gandhians including Acharya Kriplani and Maniben had decided to support the Janata Party. “I would go out everyday accompanying Maniben as part of her campaign team. She was quite old by then but would go around the whole day campaigning. This gave me my first experience,” Shah is quoted in the book as saying.
Shah later played many roles in the state, and was a trusted lieutenant of CM Modi for many years.
With a hostile Congress government at the Centre, a court ordered him to spend time outside the state in 2010-11. He would come to Delhi and Varanasi — which in a way helped him understand the UP jigsaw, which he ultimately cracked by winning 71 out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 elections. In Delhi, during those days, he would come to Parliament, stand in queues with a temporary pass, to visit Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley. In national politics, this was baptism by fire for him.
The Modi-Shah duo-led BJP stunned everyone with the renewed Lok Sabha mandate in 2019, and it was widely speculated that Shah would be in the Cabinet.
As home minister, Shah’s move to completely integrate Jammu & Kashmir with the rest of the country will ensure that the names of Modi and Shah will be taken in the same breath as that of Syama Prasad Mookerjee.
While some may say that Patel was the architect of Article 370, by ensuring with Jammu & Kashmir what Patel had done with the princely states, the Modi-Shah duo has ensured the BJP alone today can claim to be the inheritor Patel’s legacy, and not the discredited Congress.