Editorial

A reward for Amit Shah

In electing Amit Shah as its president, the Bharatiya Janata Party seems to have lost sight of its special responsibilities as a ruling party at the Centre. There are many sides to Mr. Shah, but the BJP Central Parliamentary Board chose not to look beyond his organisational skills, and his success as the political strategist for Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. An >accused in the case of the extrajudicial killings of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati, two persons who were facing charges of extortion, Mr. Shah had a controversial tenure as Home Minister in Gujarat under the chief ministership of Narendra Modi. During his term, there were allegations that the law and order machinery of the State was misused for political ends. Reports of his direct involvement in a case of illegal surveillance of a woman also seriously dented his political image, but both Mr. Modi and the previous BJP president, Rajnath Singh, thought his campaign management skills trumped all the negatives. Senior BJP leaders and Prime Minister Modi obviously wanted to reward Mr. Shah for >winning 71 seats for the BJP from Uttar Pradesh. For the ruling party to have someone accused of engineering fake police encounters as its president, reflects poorly on the government it heads. Mr. Shah’s elevation in the BJP will surely send the wrong signals to all levels of the Modi administration. The real worry is that Mr. Shah, already known for his proximity to Prime Minister Modi, might emerge as an extra-constitutional authority in the government.

Within the BJP, the change at the top marks a generational shift. At 50, Mr. Shah is the >youngest BJP president, and his rapid rise is yet another indication of the sidelining of senior leaders such as L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. Effectively, Mr. Modi will have a greater say in the affairs of both the government and the party. While party-government relations might get to be smoother than they were under the United Progressive Alliance government, this could be at the cost of democratic decision-making. Instead of the UPA’s dual centres of power, which saw a politically weak Prime Minister and a powerful party president trying to work in tandem, the National Democratic Alliance government seems to be pushing for a centralised decision-making structure with power concentrated in Mr. Modi. With a powerful PMO and a loyalist party president backing him, the Prime Minister seems to have everything going for him. But the real concern is not about Mr. Modi interfering in BJP affairs, but about Mr. Shah leveraging his access within the government. Mr. Modi will have to ensure that Mr. Shah as BJP president will not be interfering in the working of the government.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 7:31:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/a-reward-for-amit-shah/article6206809.ece

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