Modi loyalist Amit Shah is BJP's new chief
After weeks of speculation, Amit Shah, a Narendra Modi loyalist who scripted the BJP's spectacular electoral win in Uttar Pradesh, was Wednesday named its new president, with party leaders voicing confidence that he will take the ruling party to greater success.
Prime Minister Modi, who counts the 49-year-old Ahmedabad businessman amongst his closest confidants, said Shah's elevation would help the Bharatiya Janata Party further expand its influence across the country.
Referring to him as "Amit Bhai", Modi said the former minister of state for home in Gujarat took to politics "as an ordinary 'karyakarta' and has repeatedly proven himself through tireless hard work and determination".
Shah, a party general secretary before his new appointment, succeeds Rajnath Singh, the home minister in Modi's government who made the widely anticipated announcement about Shah after a meeting of the BJP's parliamentary board.
Once this was done, a beaming Shah accepted sweets and bouquets from party colleagues including Modi, Rajnath Singh, L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
"Amit Shah is the new president," Rajnath Singh told the media as Modi and Shah looked on.
Rajnath Singh said Shah, a wealthy man whose family runs a successful business in PVC, was chosen for his "organisational and management skills" which were seen in Uttar Pradesh during the Lok Sabha battle.
In a stunning performance, the BJP bagged 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state after the bearded and portly Shah spearheaded the party campaign like a warrior possessed. Two more seats went to a BJP ally, Apna Dal.
The Congress and the Samajwadi Party were virtually decimated, while the Bahujan Samaj Party was wiped out.
Since then, Shah - whose tenure in the Gujarat government was dogged by controversy - was widely seen as the front-runner for the top party post.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulates new BJP chief Amit Shah on his elevation during a press conference in New Delhi on July 9, 2014. Also seen senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. (Photo: IANS)
He was accused of ordering an illegal surveillance of a woman in 2009 in Gujarat allegedly at the behest of Modi, the then chief minister. Shah denied this charge.
Earlier, he was accused of orchestrating the extra-judicial killing of a criminal, Sohrabuddin Sheikh, and his wife near Gandhinagar. A witness, Tulsiram Prajapati, too was killed later.
Forced to quit the Gujarat government, Shah denied the allegations against him.
Prior to that, another police gun battle in Gujarat that killed four alleged terrorists sparked a furore after it was claimed that one of the victims, a young woman, had no terror links. The CBI gave Shah a clean chit in the case.
From the time they met in 1982, Modi and Shah became a team, quietly building up the BJP in Gujarat, transforming a state that was a Congress bastion into a BJP fortress.
Shah is the 10th president of the BJP, given that senior leader L.K. Advani held the post thrice and Rajnath Singh twice since the party was established in 1980.
First elected to the Gujarat assembly in 1997, Shah emerged over the years as Modi's most trusted political aide.
Some supporters call him charismatic and others dub him a modern day Chanakya.
He was born Oct 22, 1964, and joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh at the young age of 14 as "tarun swayamsevak (young volunteer)". He also worked in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
On Wednesday, BJP leaders paid glowing tributes to Shah.
"He is a very good organiser, very committed... His elevation will help the BJP in social expansion and gain organisational strength," party vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told IANS.
Balbir Punj, a BJP vice president, told IANS: "He is a very inspiring leader, very hard working. He knows all the 'karyakartas' (functionaries). The party will touch new heights under his leadership."
The party's parliamentary board later adopted a resolution lauding Rajnath Singh's role and said that in his leadership, the party has delivered its best performance by getting a clear majority in the Lok Sabha.
The resolution said Rajnath Singh's latest tenure "was the highest point in the history of BJP and epoch making time in Indian politics".
(Posted on 09-07-2014)