Taking up challenges and coming out with flying colours is not new for BJP president Amit Shah. Before working his magic with numbers on the national stage, he had proved to be a man of many talents in his home state, Gujarat. From handling the crisis of cooperative banking sector in early 2000 when a couple of key banks went bust, to being in-charge of BJP stalwart L.K. Advani’s election campaign in Gandhingar in 2014, to taking control of the Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank from the Congress and dethroning Narhari Amin of the Congress (now with the BJP) from the Gujarat Cricket Association to become its president, Shah has won and how. The 53-year-old MLA from Naranpura won with one of the highest margins in 2012 and had been elected four times from Sarkhej. Though his current role warrants him to be out of Gujarat, he keeps tabs on his constituency over the phone and has a well-organised machinery in place to take care of his electorate.
A science graduate, he was active in politics since his college days when he was with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. A tough taskmaster and hard worker, Shah is a night owl, who is focused and does his homework meticulously. Recently when leaders from Gujarat wanted to discuss pending appointments within the party, they were reportedly asked to meet him after the Uttar Pradesh elections.
Shah’s organisational skills combined with Narendra Modi’s leadership have worked like a charm for the BJP. “They are made for each other,” says Gujarat Tourism chairman Kamlesh Patel, who vacated his Maninagar assembly seat for Modi in 2002. Gujarat BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya goes a step ahead. “If during independence there was a Gujarati duo of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, which was not liked by many, now for surajya [good governance] we have a team of Modi and Shah, which is criticised by opponents,” he says.
Despite his elevation and electoral victories, Shah hasn’t changed as a person, says his close friend Ajay Patel. “We keep speaking over the phone and meeting in person,” says the chairman of ADC Bank. Whenever Shah gets a break from poll preparations and party work, he makes a trip home, spending time with his family. Recently, he visited the Somnath temple in Saurashtra with his wife, Sonal, who keeps a low profile. He also attended the baby shower of his daughter-in-law, Rishita. Also when he is in Gujarat, one can find him enjoying his favourite snacks—pav bhaji, dalwada and ganthia—at one of the Honest restaurants or at Anand Pau Bhajiwala.
But life has not been all about highs for Shah. He was an accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case and was in jail for three months in 2010, after which he had to spend two years outside the state on court orders. “I used the opportunity to network,” Shah had told THE WEEK on his return. He was later given a clean chit in the case.
Up next on his agenda are the 2017 assembly elections in Gujarat and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. But before that, he will be dissecting the BJP’s defeat in the Punjab polls.