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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2585

Despite Assam show, BJP Can’t Shield Amit Shah

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

In the post-Assam euphoria, the Bharatiya Janata Party may not admit it, but it has suffered a big blow in Uttarakhand where it failed disastrously in its attempt to dislodge the Congress. A state that looked set to deal a telling blow to the Congress, the party in power, before the BJP misadventure no longer looks certain to fall into the BJP lap, if, as is being speculated, elections are held in the state before the January 2017 outer limit.

The shaken Congress chief minister of Uttarakhand, Harish Rawat, would surely be tempted to advance the assembly poll, playing upon the victim card, courtesy the BJP. Of course, it cannot be said with certainty that his gamble will pay off but what can be said with certainty is that he would be able to avert the rout that most would have expected had the BJP not tried to steal his throne, so to say.

For long, a strong anti-incumbency wind has been blowing across the small Himalayan state. It started when the state failed to handle a natural disaster. The man at the helm then was Vijay Bahuguna, one of the rebel Congress leaders, who has since become a BJP asset, the tide of public opinion turned against the Congress government he headed. The Congress brought in his rival, Harish Rawat, who does have larger support within the Congress in the state than Bahuguna who, despite being a ‘son of the soil’ has had very little contact with the hilly state. His rise in the Congress could be attributed to the stature of his late father, Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, who left the Congress around the Emergency time but later returned to the fold.

The junior Bahuguna resented the change-over in the leadership and made no effort to hide his disappointment from day one. But he could not have dislodged Rawat singly. Luckily for Bahuguna, there were some other Congress MLAs in the state who, like him, did not see eye to eye with Rawat and were prepared to raise the banner of revolt.
This is where the BJP saw its chance but lost because of its impatience and poor strategy. It encouraged Bahuguna to bring together all the rebels—nine in all—who could then form a nucleus of a non-Congress government by throwing out the Rawat government in a show down on the floor of the assembly.

Instead of letting that show down take its own course to reach the climax, the BJP promptly brought the state under President’s Rule and thereby ensured that it converted a winning situation into one of ignominy. It does not require a hindsight view to claim that had the BJP government at the Centre not interfered, the Rawat government would have collapsed.

Who in the BJP was responsible for the sudden turn of events—and fortunes—in Uttarakhand? Fingers must point at Amit Shah who, it can be presumed, must have acted with the consent of Modi.

The BJP government’s action in the state has invited criticism from the judiciary. The party has not helped itself by directly or indirectly blaming the judiciary (Arun Jaitley’s carping) for its egregious act in Uttarakhand. The party also failed to raise moral indignation by accusing the Congress of indulging in open horse-trading of MLAs because nobody will believe that the ruling party at the Centre with its overflowing coffers is averse to this nefarious game.

While the horse trading was on display, a significant part of the toppling game that attracted less notice was total obfuscation about the likely leader—from the BJP or among the rebel Congress members—who would take over from Rawat. Vijay Bahuguna would not have made a very credible alternative to Rawat after all the criticism he had invited during the Uttarakhand flood disaster of 2013. In the BJP camp, there are at least two or three leaders, not favourably disposed towards each other, who would have liked to take a shot at the top post.

Rawat’s position within the Uttarakhand Congress may still not be very safe and secure but he is certainly going to exploit as much as he can the divisions within the anti-Congress camp along with the ‘injustice’ done to him by the Centre. He would not have derived much advantage out of this situation had the BJP not decided to overthrow him by dubious means.

In putting up a brave front, the BJP has shied away from pinpointing responsibility for the Uttarakhand fiasco. Is it because Amit Shah, the party president cannot be blamed since he is the most trusted confidante of Narendra Modi? There is an impregnable Modi shield around Shah. The party may have assigned charge of ‘Topple Uttarakhand’ to one of its general secretaries but the overall command was surely with Shah.

It is Shah, described by the media as ‘master strategist’, who has been guiding the party during all the polls held in the last two years. His call to make India ‘Congress-free’ continues to fascinate many pundits who, therefore, will not give him any negative rating.

The media started to hail Shah as a great strategist soon after the Lok Sabha polls when ‘he’ as Modi’s alter ego delivered a number of states like Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana, to the BJP. It has stuck to the same refrain after the great Assam show with Shah himself declaring that BJP is now set to storm from Panchayat to Parliament.

Shah may have made some contribution by way of toning up the party machinery but it could have been seen easily that the BJP swept these states largely on local momentum. You might call it the rippling effect of the staggering performance by Narendra Modi during the parliamentary polls.

The anti-Congress ‘wave’ in states like Assam. Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana was very much intact and starkly visible. Delhi was no different as it annihilated the Congress in the state assembly poll.

Amit Shah’s ‘master strategy’ crumbled when it was tested in Bihar where the Congress has long been a bit player and the political landscape is dominated by two former stalwarts of the ‘JP movement’, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav.

Bihar had shown that there was nothing ‘masterly’ about poll strategies prepared by Amit Shah. If it were true, the BJP would surely not have fared poorly even after putting its ‘star’ campaigner, Modi, into the thick of the poll battle in Bihar with record number of visits. The clear give away was limited showcasing of Modi in the just concluded Assam poll.

- Asian Tribune -

Amit Shah
diconary view
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