Amit Shah

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For Mayor of Ahmedabad, see Amit Shah (mayor).
Amit Shah
President of the Bharatiya Janata Party
Incumbent
Assumed office
9 July 2014
Preceded by Rajnath Singh
MLA, Naranpura
Incumbent
Assumed office
2012
Constituency Naranpura
MLA, Sarkhej
In office
1997–2012
Preceded by Harishchandra Lavjibhai Patel
Constituency Sarkhej
Personal details
Born Amitbhai Anilchandra Shah
(1964-10-22) 22 October 1964 (age 49)[1]
Mumbai, India
Political party Bharatiya Janata Party
Spouse(s) Sonal Shah
Children Jay
Alma mater CU Shah Science College
Religion Jainism[2][3][4]

Amit Shah (born Oct 22, 1964) is an Indian politician from Gujarat and the current president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).[5]

Shah was elected as an MLA from Sarkhej in four consecutive elections: 1997 (bye-election), 1998, 2002 and 2007. He is a close associate of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and held a number portfolios in Government of Gujarat, when Modi was the Chief Minister. In 2010, Shah was accused of orchestrating two fake police encounter, which happened during his tenure as the Gujarat Home Minister. He was forced to resign, and arrested. Shah maintains that all the accusations against him are false, and are the result of a "witch-hunt" by his political opponents belonging to the Indian National Congress. Shah was later granted bail, on the condition that he will not stay in Gujarat. He was allowed to return to Gujarat in 2012, and won Assembly elections from Naranpura.

For the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP made Shah the party's in-charge for Uttar Pradesh, where it had not done well in the past few elections. BJP emerged as the single largest party in the state, registering its best ever performance by winning 71 out of 80 seats. As a result, Shah rose to national prominence and was appointed as the party's President in July 2014.

Early life[edit]

Amit Shah was born in Mumbai, in a well-to-do family. His father Anilchandra Shah, a businessman from Mansa, owned a successful PVC pipe business.[6] Amit Shah did his schooling in Mehsana, and then moved to Ahmedabad to study biochemistry at CU Shah Science College. He graduated with a B.Sc. degree in biochemistry, and then worked for his father's business.[6] He also worked as a stockbroker and in co-operative banks in Ahmedabad.[7]

Shah was involved with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since childhood, participating in the neighbourhood shakhas (branches) as a boy. He formally became a RSS swyamsevak (volunteer) during his college days in Ahmedabad.[8] He first met Narendra Modi in 1982, in the Ahmedabad RSS circles.[8] At that time, Modi was a minor RSS pracharak, working as in-charge of youth activities in city.[6]

Early political career[edit]

Amit Shah started his political career as a leader of RSS's student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in 1983.[8][9] He joined BJP in 1986, one year before Modi joined the party.[6] He became an activist of BJP's youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) in 1987. He then gradually rose in the BJYM hierarchy, holding various posts including that of ward secretary, taluka secretary, state secretary, vice-president, and general secretary.[8] He campaigned for Lal Krishna Advani in Gandhinagar during the 1991 Lok Sabha elections.[1]

In 1995, BJP formed its first government in Gujarat, with Keshubhai Patel as the Chief Minister. At that time, BJP's main rival Indian National Congress was highly influential in rural Gujarat. Modi and Shah worked together to decimate Congress in the rural areas. Their strategy was to find the second most influential leader in every village, and get him or her to join BJP. They created a network of 8,000 influential rural leaders who had lost elections to the pradhan (village chief) post in their village.[8]

Shah and Modi used the same strategy to reduce Congress' influence over the state's powerful co-operatives, which play an important role in the state's economy. In 1999, Shah was elected as the President of Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank (ADCB), the biggest cooperative bank in India. In Gujarat, such elections had traditionally been won on the caste considerations, and the co-operative banks had traditionally been controlled by Patels, Gaderias and Kshatriyas. Despite not belonging to any of these castes, Shah managed to win the election. At that time, the bank was on the verge of collapsing, having accumulated losses of INR 36 crore. Shah turned around the bank's fortune within an year's time: the next year, the bank registered a profit of INR 27 crore. By 2014, the bank's profit had increased to around INR 250 crore.[8] Shah also ensured that 11 of the Bank's 22 directors were his loyalists in the BJP.[6]

Modi and Shah also sought to reduce the Congress hold over sports bodies in the state.[8] Shah served as the President of Gujarat State Chess Association.[9] In 2009, he became the vice-president of the cash-rich Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA), when Narendra Modi served as its President.[6] Much later, in 2014, he became the President of GCA.

Modi, who had become a general secretary in the party's state unit by the early 1990s, used his influence to get bigger roles for Shah. He convinced Patel to appoint Shah as the chairman of the Gujarat State Financial Corporation, a public sector financial institution which finances small and medium-scale enterprises. After Shankersinh Vaghela and some other leaders complained about Modi's growing clout in the Gujarat government, the party leadership moved Modi out of Gujarat, to the BJP headquarters in Delhi. During this time (1995-2001), Shah served as Modi's informer in Gujarat.[6]

In 1997, Modi lobbied to get Shah a BJP ticket for the Gujarat Legislative Assembly by-election in Sarkhej.[10] Shah became an MLA in February 1997 after winning the by-election.[11] He retained his seat in the 1998 Assembly elections.

As a Gujarat minister[edit]

In October 2001, BJP replaced Keshubhai Patel with Narendra Modi as the chief minister of Gujarat, following allegations of inefficient administration. Over the next few years, Modi and Shah gradually sidelined their political rivals.[6]

Amit Shah contested the 2002 Assembly election from the Sarkhej constituency in Ahmedabad. He won by the highest margin among all candidates: 158,036 votes. In the 2007 Assembly election, he won from Sarkhej again, improving his margin of victory.[9]

During Narendra Modi's twelve-year tenure as the Gujarat CM, Shah emerged as one of the most powerful leaders in Gujarat. After winning the 2002 elections, he became the youngest minister in the Modi government, and was given multiple portfolios.[1] At one time, he held 12 portfolios: Home, Law and Justice, Prison, Border Security, Civil Defence, Excise, Transport, Prohibition, Home Guards, Gram Rakshak Dal, Police Housing, and Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs.[6]

In 2003, the Congress-led Central Government announced its intention to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, calling it regressive. Amit Shah piloted the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime (Amendment) Bill through Gujarat state assembly amid an opposition walk-out.[12] Shah also played an important role in convincing the Narendra Modi government to pass the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, which made religious conversions difficult in the Hindu-majority Gujarat. His opponents argued that the Act went against the rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, but Shah defended the bill, calling it a measure against forced conversions. His efforts in getting the bill passed impressed the senior leadership of RSS.[8]

Fake encounter case[edit]

In 2010, Amit Shah was accused of having orchestrated the extrajudicial killings of a criminal Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kauser Bi and his criminal associate Tulsiram Prajapati. According to the CBI, Sohrabuddin had been harassing some marble traders of Rajasthan, by demanding hefty protection money. Two of these marble traders paid Amit Shah to eliminate Sohrabuddin. Amit Shah, along with the police officers DIG DG Vanzara and SP Rajkumar Pandian, allegedly hatched a plan to kill Sohrabuddin. In 2004, DCP Abhay Chudasama pressured Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram to fire at the office of two builder brothers - Raman Patel and Dashrath Patel. This was done so that a fresh criminal case could be registered against Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram. The next year, the police picked up Sohrabuddin, Kausar Bi and Tulsiram, and took them to a farmhouse near Ahmedabad. Sohrabuddin was killed in a staged attack, with Vanzara claiming that he was a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative. Kausar Bi was also killed and cremated for being a witness. Tulsiram was initially let off, as he was an informer of Vanzara. He was eliminated later, after Sohrabuddin's death was exposed as an extrajudicial killing by a journalist. CBI claimed that Amit Shah had transferred Vanzara to various places in order to facilitate these killings.[13][14]

Vanzara and several other officers were arrested in the case. As proof of Amit Shah's involvement in the crimes, the CBI presented phone call records, which showed that Shah had been in touch with the accused police officers when the victims were in their illegal custody. It also presented video tapes of Patel brothers' conversations with two of Amit Shah's associates at Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank (ADCB). In the tape, ADCB Director Yashpal Chudasama and its Chairman Ajay Patel can be seen asking the brothers not to involve Amit Shah's name in the case. Yashpal Chudasama is the brother of the accused police officer Abhay Chudasama. According to CBI, Abhay used to run an extortion racket, with Sohrabuddin as his henchman.[15] The Patel brothers, who had several criminal cases against them, also spoke against Amit Shah. They claimed that the police had falsely implicated them into various cases between 2001-2005 in order to extort money from them. They also claimed that Vanzara made them talk to Amit Shah over phone, and Amit Shah threatened them into giving a statement against Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram. They further stated that, in 2006, Ajay Patel and Abhay Chudasama called them again on behalf of Amit Shah, asking them to give certain statements to CBI.[16]

Shah dismissed all the accusations against him as politically motivated. He pointed out that during his tenure as the Home Minister, Gujarat was one of the states with minimum number of police encounters in the country. He stated that he kept in touch with the police officers on the phone in the normal course of his duties as the home minister.[17] He accused the Congress of misusing CBI, and claimed that only the encounter cases in Gujarat were being scrutinized when the rest of the country had witnessed around 1500 encounters during the same period.[18] He said that if CBI had any solid evidence against him, it would have been able to frame him.[6] In 2010, Police Commissioner Geeta Johri, who first investigated the case, claimed that CBI was pressurizing her to falsely implicate Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin case.[19]

DG Vanzara was also accused in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, but the CBI gave Amit Shah a clean chit in the case.[20]

Other controversies[edit]

Shah and Modi have been accused of sidelining the police officers who testified against the Gujarat government in cases related to the fake encounters and the 2002 riots. Additional DGP R. B. Sreekumar, who gave evidence to the Nanavati-Shah commission, was allegedly denied promotion. Rahul Sharma, who handed over phone records of police officers and politicians to the Commission, was charged with violating the Official Secrets Act. Additional DGP Kuldeep Sharma alleged that he had been moved from the police department to Gujarat State Sheep and Wool Development Corporation, after he accused Shah of taking a bribe of Rs 2.5 crore to bail out a conman who fraudulently withdrew Rs 1,600 crore from the Madhavpura Mercantile Cooperative Bank. Kuldeep Sharma was later made advisor to the central home ministry by the Congress government. His brother Pradeep Sharma was imprisoned in Gujarat from 2010 to 2011 on corruption charges. The brothers claim that the Gujarat Government was harassing them.[6] Shah has also been accused of manipulated the electoral constituency delimitation exercise in Gujarat to favour BJP.[10]

Later, in 2013, Shah was accused of having ordered illegal surveillance on a woman in 2009, during his tenure as a home minister. The investigative websites Cobrapost and Gulail released a set of taped audio conversations between Amit Shah and police officer GL Singhal. The tapes had been submitted to the CBI in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, and were leaked to these portals. The calls detail how the state machinery was used to surveil the woman and the IAS officer Pradeep Sharma (who was suspended by the Gujarat Government). Both Singhal and Shah repeatedly refer to a higher authority as Saheb, believed to be the Chief Minister Narendra Modi.[21] BJP's political opponents demanded a probe in this "Snoopgate" case. However, in May 2014, the woman approached the Supreme Court and stated that the surveillance on her was based on a "personal request", and she was thankful to the Gujarat government for ensuring her safety. She requested the court to block any investigation, stating that it would violate her privacy.[22]

Shah denied all the accusations against him, calling them political propaganda by his opponents.[6]

Arrest and exile[edit]

Amit Shah was arrested on 25 July 2010 in connection with the Sohrabuddin case. He was charged with the murder, extortion and kidnapping among other charges. At one time, Shah was considered as one of the main contenders for the Gujarat Chief Minister's post. However, his political career was hurt by the arrest. Many leaders in the Gujarat government distance themselves from him. His fellow ministers issued statements, criticizing him as an autocratic person, who did not have good relations with his colleagues.[9]

When Amit Shah applied for bail, the CBI raised concerns that he would use his political power to prevent justice from taking its course.[6] The Gujarat High Court granted him bail three months after his arrest, on Friday, 29 October 2010. However, the next day, when the courts were closed, Justice Aftab Alam took a petition at his residence to bar him from entering Gujarat.[8] Shah was thus forcibly exiled from the state from 2010 to 2012.[6] He and his wife moved to a room in Gujarat Bhawan, Delhi.[8] Later, the Supreme Court canceled his bail on a CBI plea. In September 2012, the Supreme Court granted him bail, and allowed him to return to Gujarat. He then contested and won the 2012 Assembly election from Naranpura constituency (the Sarkhej constituency had ceased to exist after delimitation).[9]

National politics[edit]

After Narendra Modi became the Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP, Shah's influence also increased in the party. The two have been accused of sidelining other senior BJP leaders such as Lal Krishna Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Murli Manohar Joshi and Jaswant Singh.[6] By this time, Amit Shah had gained recognition as an excellent election campaign manager, and had been dubbed a "modern day Chanakya and master strategist".[23] Shah was appointed as a BJP general secretary, and was given charge of Uttar Pradesh (UP). He was chosen not by Modi, but by Rajnath Singh, who had been impressed by the skills that Shah displayed in wresting control of various Congress-controlled organizations in Gujarat.[8] The decision did not go well down with many in the party, who saw him as a liability owing to the criminal charges against him. Political analysts such as Shekhar Gupta termed the decision as a blunder.[24]

Uttar Pradesh general elections[edit]

Amit Shah's political career, which had tanked after his arrest in 2010, revived after BJP's massive victory in the 2014 general election. In UP, where Shah was the in-charge, BJP won 71 out of 80 seats. Shah had been made in-charge of BJP's UP campaigning on 12 June 2013, less than an year before the elections.[6] Since February 2012, Shah had spent considerable time in UP, trying to understand the reasons for the Samajwadi Party's winning performance in the 2012 UP Assembly elections. Shah realized that the voters were dissatisfied with the Samajwadi Party, which he believed had failed to keep its election promises after the win. He also took advantage of the OBC vote bank's displeasure with the UP government's decision to create 4.5% reservation for the minorities within the 27% OBC quota.[6]

Shah personally oversaw the candidate selection, emphasizing on the candidate's local clout and winning potential as the only criteria for selection, as opposed to the candidate's party loyalty or ideology. His team estimated that only 35% of the BJP's traditional supporters had actually voted in the UP elections. Therefore, he focused on door-to-door campaigning at the booth-level. He set up a 7-to-10 member management committee for each of the 140,000 voting booths in the state. For each booth, his team collated lists of voters and reached out to them.[6] Shah's team used 450 GPS-enabled mobile vans ("video raths") to reach out to the masses in remote areas, where media reach was negligible.[25] Shah personally covered 76 out of 80 Lok Sabha constituencies. He also insisted on Modi contesting election from Varanasi.[26]

Shah convinced Modi to utilize RSS volunteers for grassroots campaigning, which proved highly beneficial for BJP.[26] Although RSS officially did not get involved in electioneering, Shah used its volunteers to mobilize and monitor the campaigners. For example, the RSS volunteers would cross-check a BJP worker's claims of having targeted a given number of households.[6] Shah also helped organize "mega rallies" for Modi. Like other major political parties, BJP provisioned one van per village to transport people to the rally venue. However, unlike others, Shah decided that BJP would not provide money for hiring these vehicles. Instead, he declared that the party workers organizing the transportation would be made the leader of the BJP unit in their respective villages. This strategy ensured that a number of local village leaders developed a stake in Modi's victory.[8]

Critics accused Amit Shah of trying to polarize the UP voters along the religious lines. While visiting Ayodhya for a meeting with the party's local committee, he raised the Ram Janmabhoomi temple issue (see Ayodhya dispute). BJP fielded three candidates accused of inciting violence during the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. These were seen as attempts to target the party's Hindu nationalist base.[6] An FIR was registered against Shah for a speech in Muzaffarnagar, where he urged the voters to seek "revenge" through their votes.[10]

Shah also played an important role in BJP's election campaigning strategy outside Uttar Pradesh. He focused on building Modi's larger-than-life image as a strong leader. At times, he opposed even Modi on several strategic campaigning issues. For example, when Modi praised his opponent and prospective post-poll ally Mamata Banerjee, Shah insisted that BJP must not divert from the "Modi-versus-all" tactic.[26] Shah was also responsible for forging BJP's alliances with regional parties like Pattali Makkal Katchi.[10]

BJP President[edit]

In July 2014, BJP's Central Parliamentary Board unanimously approved Amit Shah's appointment as the President of the party.[27] As a prominent politician, he receives Z plus security Cover from Government.[28]

Electoral record[edit]

Since 1989, Shah has fought 28 elections to the Gujarat State Assembly and various local bodies. As of 2014, he has never lost an election.[8]

Election Year Constituency Result Votes  % Votes Source
Gujarat Legislative Assembly (by-election) 1997 Sarkhej Won 76839 56.10% [29]
Gujarat Legislative Assembly 1998 Sarkhej Won 193,373 69.81% [30]
Gujarat Legislative Assembly 2002 Sarkhej Won 288,327 66.98% [31]
Gujarat Legislative Assembly 2007 Sarkhej Won 407,659 68.00% [32]
Gujarat Legislative Assembly 2012 Naranpura Won 103,988 69.19% [33]

Personal life[edit]

Amit Shah is married to Sonal Shah, and the couple has a son named Jay. Shah was very close to his mother, who died from an illness on 8 June 2010, around a month before his arrest on 25 July.[6][8] People close to Amit Shah have described him as someone who does not like to socialize much.[34]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Subhash Mishra and Pratul Sharma (7 July 2013). "In UP, Shah prepares for Modi ahead of 2014 battle". Indian Express. 
  2. ^ "Amit Shah rises". The Economist. 2014-06-09. 
  3. ^ Once behind Modi, Jains question Bill, Indian Express
  4. ^ What makes Amit Shah so powerful in Gujarat, Aakar Patel
  5. ^ "Amit Shah elected new BJP president". Patrika Group. 9 July 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Poornima Joshi (1 April 2014). "The Organiser". Caravan. 
  7. ^ Sheela Bhatt (28 July 2010). "What Amit Shah's fall really means". rediff.com. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n PR Ramesh (11 April 2014). "His Master’s Mind". Open. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "Who is Amit Shah?". NDTV. 12 June 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c d "The importance of Amit Shah". Mumbai Mirror. 7 April 2014. 
  11. ^ Andy Marino (8 April 2014). Narendra Modi: A Political Biography. HarperCollins Publishers India. pp. 76–. ISBN 978-93-5136-218-0. 
  12. ^ "Gujarat keeps a terror law spare". The Telegraph (Calcutta, India). 3 June 2004. 
  13. ^ "The journalist who cracked Gujarat fake encounter case". rediff.com. 25 April 2007. 
  14. ^ Abhishek Sharan (26 July 2010). "‘Cop transfers part of Shah plan’". Hindustan Times. 
  15. ^ Bhupendra Chaubey (26 July 2010). "CBI 'proof' against Shah: Sohrabuddin tapes". CNN-IBN. 
  16. ^ "He (Amit Shah) smiled and said Sohrabuddin had himself closed the option of keeping himself alive...". Indian Express. 24 November 2011. 
  17. ^ Aman Sharma (14 November 2013). "CBI to file crucial chargesheets in Gujarat fake encounters' case". Economic times. 
  18. ^ Sheela Bhatt (8 October 2013). "'Encounter cases are politically motivated; non-Gujarat encounters are never scrutinised'". rediff.com. 
  19. ^ J. Venkatesan (29 August 2010). "CBI putting pressure on me: Geeta Johri". The Hindu. 
  20. ^ "CBI clean chit for Amit Shah in Ishrat Jahan encounter case". The Times of India. 7 May 2014. 
  21. ^ "News Detail". Cobrapost.com. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  22. ^ Deepshikha Ghosh (6 May 2014). "Snoopgate: 'Thankful' for Surveillance, Woman Tells Supreme Court". NDTV. 
  23. ^ Amit Shah set for bigger role if BJP wins, Vinay Kumar, April 12, 2014
  24. ^ Shekhar Gupta (8 April 2014). Anticipating India. HarperCollins Publishers India. p. 369. ISBN 978-93-5136-256-2. 
  25. ^ Yojna Gosai (18 May 2014). "Sunday Interview: We had 450 video raths with GPS and I’d get feedback on my mobile, says Amit Shah". Deccan Chronicle. 
  26. ^ a b c Prarthna Gahilote (26 May 2014). "Judgement Day Feast For The Shah Of Shahs". Outlook. 
  27. ^ "BJP strategist & Narendra Modi's confidant Amit Shah appointed party president". Economic Times. 9 July 2014. 
  28. ^ "BJP Leader Amit Shah to get Z-plus security from Central Govt". IANS. news.biharprabha.com. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  29. ^ "Bye-Elections 1997: Sarkhej". Election Commission of India. Retrieved 27 June 2014. 
  30. ^ "Constituency Data - Summary: Sarkhej - 1998". Rediff.com. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  31. ^ "State Elections 2002: 64-Sarkhej Constituency of Gujarat". Election Commission of India. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  32. ^ "State Elections 2007: 64-Sarkhej Constituency of Gujarat". Election Commission of India. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  33. ^ "Form-21E: 45-Naranpura". Election Commission of India. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  34. ^ Deepal Trivedi (23 July 2010). "Shrewd Modi loyalist able to ‘manage everything’". Asian Age. 
Party political offices
Preceded by
Rajnath Singh
President of the Bharatiya Janata Party
2014–present
Incumbent
  1. ^ http://bjp.org/organisation/office-bearers