On Friday morning, Amit Shah woke up a bit late, at 8.20 am, by the time counting of the votes, India wide, had already began.
For last many months, he has managed with barely 5 hours sleep and hectic daylong schedule, crisscrossing the most populous State of India. Sometimes spending the night at a nondescript hotel, or at a party provided accommodation in Lucknow, and at some weekends, coming back to Delhi, to his rented home, at Jangpura in South Delhi.
At around 9 am he is at his drawing room, surfing news channels and was confident that BJP would get more than 55 seats in UP, and NDA would get more than 300 seats all over India.
The man was calm and composed. There was no sign of anxiety or desperation in his voice.
By the time Sonal Ben, his wife brings tea and Poha, a Gujarati/Malwa favourite. He politely tells her to squeeze some more lemon, on Poha and gets busy on phone, as usual.
By the times Delhi journalists started arriving at his place, while he was talking to the Uttar Pradesh election headquarter, for the latest inputs.
The results, at least the trends were quite visible in favour of BJP. But the man was not excited, he watched the TV quietly and in between talked to the party workers of different levels.
Narendra Modi, called him in the meantime and talked in Gujarati, for some time.
Within the busy schedule, he took time off to talk to the family members. Called on his sisters and exchanged pleasantries.
The man, who was portrayed as a cunning manipulator, a mastermind behind many conspiracies, by various rags and related journalists adhered to Congress, over all these years, is a predominantly family man.
While in Ahmedabad, after every hectic day he used to come back to his old mother, to whom he was very much attached.
His mother died, only a few days before he was arrested, on July 25, 2010,in the Sorahbuddin Sheikh Murder case.
He was granted bail on October 29. And, after a lengthy legal battle in the Supreme Court, he is now allowed to return to Gujarat.
Despite being born in a rich business family, he is a frugal man. He keeps pairs of Kurta –Pyjama ready, since his RSS days, for any contingency. His food habit is simple and it’s told that, for past many years he takes bath, using just water and no soap.
As a long trained RSS cadre, his frugal lifestyle helped him without much difficulty in Sabarmati jail, the three long months, he spent there.
Congress strongman, Narahari Amin, who later joined BJP,ahead of the 2012 Assembly elections, once told about him: “He is an exceptionally hardworking, and focused man…Once he takes up something, he does not even bother about his own health!”
He brushes aside the random allegations about him. And hardly talks about them: “It’s all a part of conspiracy and it really does not worry me much.“
A CBI court has already dissolved charges against him in Israt Jahan encounter case.
But he accepts that going to jail was the lowest point in his political career and of his public image. Apart from that it deprived his school going son Jai and wife Sonal, of his company for such a long time.
On the personal front about his mother he still bereaves, but he thanks God, that his mother had not to go through the shock and ignominy of him going to jail!
When Amitbhai Anilchandra Shah was made the BJP General Secretary, in charge of Uttar Pradesh for the Party, in June 2013, the leaders in UP just wondered, why the man was crossing such a long distance, coming to a State whose ground reality is entirely different from Gujarat!
Known for his election winning abilities, Amit Shah has successfully managed the Gandhinagar Parliamentary seat for many years for Lal Krishna Advani. His closeness to Advani is also well known.
But the politically complex State of Uttar Pradesh was a different Ball game altogether.
He had just 11 months in hand to create a 360 degree turnaround.
BJP had just 10 Parliamentary seats in UP and its vote base and grass root level activities were in sheer uncertainty for years.
In 2004 General Elections ,when the BJP won just 10 seats in UP, it fell behind the Congress.
In the more demeaning defeat of 2009, the party was unable to improve its UP tally from 10 and for the first time since the 1980s, the Party was downgraded to fourth place in the State.
Over and above, the party was out of power for long 17 years. After Kalyan Singh left the party, it had not even an effective leadership, which can bring it back to power.
The 42% of the voters in this highly polarised State, comprising Dalits, OBCs (mainly Yadavs) and the Muslims were not to be counted as BJP’s natural voters. “Our catchment area was only 58% and our vote share had been declining over the years,” was Amit Shah’s observation, on the ground reality of the crucial State.
In just 11 months, from 10 to 71, of UP’s 80 seats…it would not been possible without Amit Shah’s extraordinary ability and leadership.
The BJP polled just 17 percent of the vote in UP in 2009. Today it’s more than 42 percent. And simply its nothing short of a miracle!
How it is made possible?
The Game Plan
In the year1998, the BJP;s voteshare in the State was 36%, which fell by nearly 9% in the following year. In 2004 General Elections, it could clinch a voteshare of 22%.in the 2009 Parliament Election the voteshare was reduced to 17%.
And in the 2012 Assembly Elections, BJP could manage only 15% of the voteshare!
The moral of the party leaders and the activists in the State was at its nadir.
The non-confident the party had not contested the Panchayat level or Cooperative elections in the State in nearly two decades and had nearly lost all contacts with the highly effective grassroots level political activists, the Gram Pradhans or the Block Pramukhs.
After taking charge of the affairs, Amit Shah, who has contested many local level elections in his political career, decided that BJP must contest all the local level elections.
Shah and his UP associates, within a month or so, started locating BJPs defeated Pradhans and got “set them up” as “a rival pull of attraction”. Within a short period of time, there was a formidable network of 8,000 Gram Pradhan actively working for the BJP.
At the District and State level, SP and BSP leaders were more active and popular than BJP, for obvious reasons.
Many local level party workers have either left the party after years of inactivity, or remained indolent.
And Shah could not have the situation changed overnight.
So, Shah’s first aims was to find out and reactivate the old party loyalists, many of them from the RSS, and with the Party since Jansangh days. They were either had no say in running the party affairs or being reduced to redundant by the leaders who had joined BJP from outside the RSS circle, in the recent years.
Bringing the old guards back into BJP’s active fold became highly effective.
People who had joined the party in recent years jumping from other parties and managed to become District Presidents or like, without any RSS upbringing, was gradually subdued, unless they were extremely useful for the party.
One of Shah’s initial measures was spotting potential among the party workers languishing in the margins without mentorship of powerful influence at the helm.
In his grand mission, Amit Shah was being assisted by his five trusted lieutenants— Rameshwar Chaurasia, Captain Abhimanyu ,Satyendra Narayan Kushwaha, Trivendra Singh Rawat, and Hriday Nath Singh.
Since he took over, without any doubt ,the dispirited State organisation of BJP and its mostly directionless leaders had found a sense of purpose in all the 62 districts of UP that Shah was continuously visiting since June, 2013.
He had routinely held meetings with the party workers and the local RSS leaders in each of these districts.
He put decisive assigned tasks and fixed a higher level of accountability.
It was Amit Shah’s astute micromanagement that saw the desired results, within the stipulated period of time.
Brick By Brick
Shah had understood that, in a State like UP, its mot possible to have one homogeneous campaign. Demographically, culturally, economically and politically, it is almost as if seven different States make up Uttar Pradesh.
So, the strategy had been planned at four levels—at the level of the constituency , at the level of clusters, at the level of zones and lastly at the state level.
The States constituencies were divided into 21 clusters comprising of three to five seats each. For each and every one distinctive strategy was activated. Above the clusters, there were eight zones that covered the entire State.
Crucial to the big plan were two things at the organisational level and two at the candidate selection level.
Amit Shah, after coming to UP, has been successful to weed out ineffective and non-serious members from the organisation.
He then revitalised the association of the local RSS workers.
He made several RSS Pracharaks, the Palaks (custodians ) of the constituencies.. Shah rightly felt that the local RSS workers who have no electoral or political ambition, would give the impartial feedback as the Palaks of each constituency. Senior RSS leaders like Krishna Gopal and Sunil Bansal had helped a lot in providing organisational support and co-ordination.
Many Party insiders said that fielding Narendra Modi from UP and specially from the religiously and strategically important city in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi was Amit Shah’s masterstroke.
It had a dramatic and coagulating effect in the long run.
Step by step, he had planned UP turnaround with somehow a watertight strategy, making a distinct approach to the State’s key electoral dynamics-the crucial and complex Caste factor.
BJP fielded 25 members from Other Backward Castes or OBCs and 17 candidates from Scheduled Castes(SCs) and then balanced that with 16 Brahmin candidates and 14 Rajputs.
It allied with the Apna Dal, a party with powerful Kurmi base, giving it two seats, both of which were subsequently won.
He scanned, schemed and painstakingly analysed each UP constituency and after long deliberation, permutation and combination made a list of winnable candidates,
Shah had no hesitation to pick up the best candidates who have the best chance of winning the seats. Some of them have joined from other parties, but Shah sticked to them, despite conventional considerations.
So, Dharmendra Kushwaha in Aonla, who had joined from Samajwadi Party, Jagdambika Pal in Domariyagunj ,from Congress or SP Singh Baghel in Firozabad who, too, was roped in from the SP got the ticket without much fuss.
He knew Veteran Murli Manohar Joshi was not a winnable candidate in Varanasi this time. So, no hesitation in shifting him to Kanpur.
He knew that Uma Bharati is a sure win in Jhansi this time, so, as the story goes, he lightly told her that she could even go for her religious discourses abroad, he and his associates would take care of her constituency and ensure her win!
Amit Shah thinks his assignment in Uttar Pradesh is over now, He has accomplished it.
BJP is now strongly at power.
Despite, speculations, it’s sure that he is not seeking any Cabinet post or any coveted position in the new Government.
If sources are to be believed, the latest news is that his next outpost is Mumbai, a city he was born. He will most possibly to take charge of BJP’s party activities in Maharashtra, next.
The State Assembly elections are scheduled for September-October this year.
During the 2009 Assembly elections, the BJP had won just 46 seats, in the 272 seats Assembly
With highly impressive show of BJP-Shiv Sena combine in 2014 General Elections, he is earnestly sought after there, by the party’s local unit as well as the central leadership.
By Deep Basu