The Rise and Rise of Amit Shah

NEW DELHI, INDIA - AUGUST 6: Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Minister of Railways and Commerce Piyush Goyal leave Parliament after the removal of Article 370 was cleared by Lok Sabha, on August 6, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Post the general election results, when it was clear that the BJP was coming back to power with yet another spectacular margin, there was a discussion between a journalist and a senior opposition leader at a Delhi watering hole, and the topic veered to the then putative Cabinet.

What will they do with Amit Shah this time, asked the journalist. "Will he be made a Minister?"

The opposition leader, who is an RS MP, deadpanned, "I dunno. But if he is made a Minister, I just hope they don't hand him the Home portfolio."

The journalist was surprised at the rather strong words. The MP added: "Amit Shah will not be quiet. He will shake up a lot of things. If he were just the BJP president, it would be confined to the party. But as the Home Minister, it would trigger a lot of things across the country."

Just over two months since that meeting, that MP's words have come chillingly true.

Amit Shah as the Home Minister has brought to the table the same no-nonsense go-getting attitude that he exhibited during his days as the president of the BJP.

This first session of Parliament, in which a record number of Bills was passed in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, saw him emerge as the man to watch.

Of course, he helmed the most far-reaching gambit of the government‌ in recent times: the reading down of Article 370. He virtually took over the plan and its execution down to the last detail.

"The BJP, to be sure, was emboldened by the numbers in its favour in both the RS and LS to scissor out Article 370. But only with a Home Minister like Amit Shah could the BJP have pulled it off. The person had to be a hard taskmaster and never willing to take 'no' for an answer," says another journalist. "Amit Shah is relentless and thorough in what he does. He has this tough streak and it was evident from his Ministerial days in Gujarat."

Modi, many party insiders say, was a bit hamstrung in his first stint as the Prime Minister, as Shah was confined to the party.

"Modi needed somebody who could put his ideas into action. Rajnath Singh was efficient. But Modi was not looking at mere efficiency alone. He wanted a certain cunning and daring. Shah is the perfect foil to Modi," says a BJP leader.

Modi was so confident of Shah that he has kept himself sidelined all through the new overtures attempted on Kashmir by the government.

Shah is not afraid of courting controversy. He is not afraid to get his hands dirty, in a manner of speaking. His tenure in Gujarat Ministry- at one point he held 12 portfolios- was controversial (he was arrested in the Sohrabuddin case in 210 and banished from Gujarat) and eventful. But Shah is never known to complain about heavy workloads. Last month, he was the one who was the brains behind “Operation Kamala” in Karnataka which saw the BJP leapfrog into power once again. "In that sense, Shah is a typical ‘karyakarta’ that the RSS is known to churn out by the hundreds," says the BJP leader.

As with all result-oriented leaders, Shah, too, is known to be abrasive, and has been accused of being autocratic. He knows that save for Modi, he is not bound to anybody, and it reflects in his actions. He has now cemented his place at the top of the totem pole alongside Modi.

Aside from Article 370 which was an out-and-out Shah show, he also helped pilot the NIA, Triple Talaq Bills and plenty of others to make the session most productive for the BJP. In all, the LS has passed 36 Bills and the RS has cleared 32.

Modi 2.0 has seen the emergence of Shah 1.0. The coming days promise to be more eventful than ever.

Postscript: After Article 370 was abrogated, the journalist in question called up the RS MP and reminded him of their conversation. "I am afraid we are only getting started.” Was the wry reply. “Trust Shah to take up other long-pending plans of the BJP. He is more clinical than Modi."