Test for strategist Amit Shah in polls
Amit Shah’s image as “master election strategist” and “election winning machine” is at stake in the current Assembly polls in three BJP-ruled states, where the odds are stacked against the incumbent, many in the party feel.
Shah is widely credited within the BJP for challenging the Opposition and conquering one state after another in the last four years. But now he has the task of retaining three incumbent BJP governments to prove his mettle, party leaders said.
The BJP managed to narrowly hold on to power in Gujarat last year. In all other states, it has wrested power as a challenger, taking advantage of negative sentiments against the ruling rival party.
“Amitbhai has challenged and defeated many incumbent governments and earned the tag of ‘master election strategist’. The real test comes in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where the BJP is the incumbent,” a BJP leader said.
The party is aiming for a record fourth term in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and a second term in Rajasthan.
BJP sources said that ahead of the announcement of these polls, Shah had assured party leaders in Delhi of victory despite the odds being stacked against the BJP. The organisational strength of the BJP — said to be the world’s largest party with over 9 crore workers — would deliver the three states, the party leaders quoted him as saying.
The respective chief ministers, regarded as mass leaders, are the faces of the BJP campaign in the three states but Shah has gone all out addressing rallies, undertaking road shows and holding closed door sessions with leaders on the ground.
“Amitbhai seems determined to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. He has told us that the party can’t afford to get defeated by the Congress,” a BJP leader from Rajasthan said. The Rajasthan BJP had been prepared to accept defeat given the trend since 1993 for the party in power to be voted out every five years.
“I heard Rahul Gandhi saying the Congress will win all the three states. I looked out to see if it was day or night. I discovered that Rahul baba was day-dreaming,” Shah said during an interaction with youths in Rajasthan on Wednesday.
Party leaders in Delhi said that given the “personal zeal” with which Shah was approaching the three state elections, it was but logical that apart from the respective chief ministers, he would have to take the flak if the BJP loses two of the three states. Defeat in one of the three states would be seen as a “big victory”, according to party leaders.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for a change, is refraining from putting his image at stake in these three states. He has addressed fewer rallies than in past elections. The “carpet bombing” of Modi’s meetings seen even in Gujarat is missing this time.
Party leaders said Shah is driven by the larger goal of the 2019 general election. “If the BJP loses two of the three states and that too at the hands of a Rahul Gandhi-led Congress, it would deal a big blow to Amit Shah’s dream of a bigger-than-2014 mandate in 2019,” a BJP leader said.