While everyone has been talking of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation on August 8, it would be quite remiss if we did not pay tribute to his trusted deputy, India’s second most powerful man, Amit Anilchandra Shah.
A decisive, competent, and some would say, ruthless leader, Shah has come a long way from being forcibly evicted and exiled from his native Gujarat on October 30, 2010. Justice Aftab Alam had admitted a weekend petition at his official residence on a Saturday to kick out Shah. This even after the Gujarat High Court had granted Shah bail the previous day in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh murder case. Resigning as Gujarat’s Home Minister, it must have been terribly humiliating for Shah and his wife to shift to one room in Gujarat Bhavan, New Delhi.
In 2002, after winning from Sarkhej in the Gujarat Assembly elections, Shah had not only become one of the youngest ministers in the then Gujarat Chief Minister Modi’s Cabinet, but held several portfolios, in addition to Home. His meteoric rise in national politics, winning election after election for Modi and the BJP, was perhaps the unexpected fallout of this unsavoury and forced ejection from Gujarat. Needless to say, Shah has never looked back. Is it poetic justice or sweet revenge that today he commands India’s Home Ministry after once being evicted from the same ministry in his native state?
Just over two months into his tenure, Shah has dealt one of the greatest and boldest political blows to separatism and turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir. Of course, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Home Minister Amit Shah are working in tandem with perfect coordination and understanding. However, while we have seen Narendra Modi’s leadership and genius at work on numerous occasions, Shah has operated mostly behind the scenes as an organization builder, leader of the party rank and file, master strategist, and election-winning machine.
Now, Shah has proved that he can excel in his new role as Member of Parliament and Home Minister too. From being BJP party president and Modi’s right-hand man, Shah has now emerged as a leader in his own right. The manner in which he introduced and ensured the passage of the amendment to Article 370 in the Parliament through a presidential ordinance was extraordinary. This was a no less than a constitutional and legislative than a political coup, the credit for which should go in large measure to Shah.
Both before and after the abrogation of the special provisions given to Jammu and Kashmir in Article 370, there has been a tremendous build-up of negative propaganda in India and abroad. It almost seemed that a coordinated effort by the Valley politicians was supported by lobbies of journalists, intellectuals and government critics. Yet hardly any of those following the developments would have had a clue of the swift, sudden, and definitive manner with which history was going to be rewritten in India, the shape of Jammu & Kashmir altered, the state bifurcated into two Union Territories.
Shah pulled this off practically overnight in a manner so deft and legally astute that it took even the government’s severest opponents by surprise. First, Amit Shah displayed his political acumen and resolve in Parliament, then followed this with an unprecedented alteration in both the history and geography of India through a Presidential order. The troops build-up, preventive detentions, cancellation of Amarnath yatra, elimination of intruders on the border, and several similar measures, not only took the enemies of India by surprise but also local naysayers and teeth-gnashers.
Making Jammu & Kashmir a Union Territory rather than a state is Amit Shah’s masterstroke. Now it comes directly in the orbit of the central government i.e. his own Home Ministry rather than the widely regarded as corruptible J&K police and already corrupted local political leadership. At long last, with Amit Shah as our Home Minister, we can expect radical changes on the ground, not just pious talk.
Of course, this is only the beginning. The success of the move must be ensured by careful monitoring of the border as well as measures taken in the two new Union Territories to prevent a recurrence of separatism and violence in the state. This is no doubt a great challenge but not one that is not impossible to overcome for the determined, in addition to resourceful, leadership of Modi and Shah.
After his remarkable intervention in Jammu and Kashmir, the next challenge for Shah is the Ram Janmabhumi-Babri Masjid imbroglio. But, by now there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the only Loh Purush (iron man) that India has produced after Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is Amitbhai Anilchandra Shah.