> Amit Shah’s re-election as president of the Bharatiya Janata Party for a full three-year term had probably been secured in the summer of 2014 itself. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s closest political aide, one who > crafted the campaign in Uttar Pradesh to contribute 71 of the State’s total 80 seats and ensure the BJP’s success in getting a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, he had the organisation’s support and the momentum to take over the leadership of the party from Rajnath Singh. That momentum may have been checked after the BJP’s reverses in the Delhi and > Bihar Assembly elections, but Mr. Modi’s and, by extension, Mr. Shah’s control of the party has not been. In Mr. Modi’s BJP, Mr. Shah is arguably the only claimant to the top post. It is not only that Mr. Shah’s power draws from his proximity to Mr. Modi; it is, more importantly, that Mr. Shah’s exercise of power as BJP president is seen, among the wider public and within the Sangh Parivar, to be in conjunction more with 7 Race Course Road, the prime ministerial establishment, than with 11 Ashoka Road, the party headquarters. Indeed, the perfect fit of the Mr. Modi-Mr. Shah partnership is seen in their joint messaging, with Mr. Modi playing the development-oriented patriarch and > Mr. Shah bringing up the majoritarian Hindutva mobilisation and agenda.
Mr. Shah’s first challenge will be to reverse the impression of a party unable to stare down a fast-uniting opposition, >as was seen in Bihar . The BJP faces a batch of important Assembly elections in 2016, and just about a year from now Uttar Pradesh must go to elections. That election may well bring the BJP full circle from the triumph of 2014, and its success or failure in replicating the Lok Sabha sweep in the State Assembly could set the mood for the lead-up to the 2019 general election. Mr. Shah is given to showcasing his achievement in increasing the party’s membership three-fold to more than 100 million. But the proof of success would obviously lie in electoral victories. And the BJP appears visibly lost for an effective strategy. > After the debacles in Delhi and Bihar, embarrassing for also having been fought in Mr. Modi’s name, it must decide whether to revive the practice of declaring chief ministerial candidates, and thereby surrender poster space away from the Prime Minister. More importantly, the party must take stock of the message it gives to rally its base and keep new voters interested. The softly played polarisation of 2014 under the overarching development rhetoric, had by Bihar given way to outright Hindutva mobilisation. Ministers have added their voice to communally divisive comments by Sangh rabble-rousers. In contrast, top leaders in the government and the party have remained silent on hate crimes such as the > lynching at Dadri . How Mr. Shah oversees an appraisal of the party’s message and mobilisation must be judged not only by the electoral outcome, but also by its conformity to constitutional principles.