May 19, 2013

Modi's growing grip on BJP - Close aide Amit Shah to be Gen Secy of UP Unit

The Telegraph, May 19 , 2013

Buzz of heartland role for Modi aide Amit

New Delhi, May 18: Narendra Modi’s “right-hand man” Amit Shah is likely to be appointed the BJP’s general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, party sources said.

If it happens, the appointment will provide another sign of the Gujarat chief minister’s increasing grip over the party.

Shah will make his first political foray into the heartland state on May 29, when he will lead a “jail bharo” agitation. Sources said his formal appointment would take place before the date.

Till late this evening, BJP president Rajnath Singh was huddled with other leaders to finalise the list of minders for the states. Sources said Shah had emerged the front-runner for Uttar Pradesh.

Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpai confirmed that Shah would visit the state on May 29. Asked about Shah’s new post, he said it was the central leadership’s call.

“Yes, Amit Shah will be in Rampur on May 29. He will court arrest along with Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. I too shall be present,” Bajpai said.

The BJP has drawn up a nationwide “jail bharo” agitation from May 27 to June 2 to galvanise its cadres for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

If Shah gets the heartland post, it will be a huge boost for him. Modi’s former junior home minister has had almost no political exposure outside Gujarat. Arrested in a double fake encounter case and now on bail, Shah had received a fillip in March when he was appointed a national general secretary in the party.

Modi, nursing national ambitions, was believed to have scripted the elevation to ensure his most trusted aide would be beside him when he shifted to Delhi. Shah has been Modi’s “master strategist” and managed all the three elections the chief minister has won in Gujarat.

Shah’s appointment would strengthen the buzz about Modi contesting the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Uttar Pradesh. The north Indian state lay at the heart of the BJP’s rise during the Ram temple agitation. Besides, the party’s tallest leader, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, used to be elected from the state.

Modi’s aides believe that contesting from Uttar Pradesh would be the best way for him to step into Vajpayee’s shoes.

Party sources said Shah was being considered for the heartland job because of his record in Gujarat.

The BJP’s downward slide in Uttar Pradesh from the high of the Ayodhya movement has never been arrested. The party now accounts for just 10 of the state’s 80 MPs.