Amit Shah has transformed BJP, the intellectuals are wrong about him

New ideas, new debates, new energies and direction define the way ahead for the party under his leadership.

 |  6-minute read |   09-08-2016
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Nehruvian historians and intellectuals with cleverly camouflaged loyalties will always desist - now and later - from analysing impartially Amit Shah's tenure as BJP president. That is a given. 

One can hardly expect that they would examine and accept the positive change that he has ushered into the political discourse of the country - especially in a polity that has been largely riddled with dynastic parties or leaders beholden to dynasties.

amit-modi_080916055458.jpg The stereotype of Shah-Modi, especially of Shah, created by a section has, in fact, failed.

The greatest message that the BJP under Shah has succeeded in broadcasting in the last two years is this: that the toil of the subaltern worker, the unsung karyakarta shall always be recognised and feted. Shah and Modi themselves are examples of that unique political tradition that Jana Sangh created under SP Mookerjee and Deendayal Upadhayay.

The results of this tradition are for all to see - much to the chagrin of many, a tea seller rose to become the leader of the largest, youngest and most vibrant democracy with a mandate unseen in three decades, while, from being a booth-level karyakarta of Naranpura in Gujarat, Amit Shah, through three decades of relentless political toil, rose to become the president of the BJP.

They give hope to the ordinary, ideology enthused worker, who aspires for a place in politics not through ruse or, to use the Lyuten's lexicon, "networking", but through grassroots organisational work and outreach.

Adherence to ideological moorings, when most political parties are under a prolonged spell of de-ideologisation, adherence to the founding principles of ideology-inspired politics and policies and recognition of the workers' contribution in establishing the party's ideals have been the hallmarks of Shah's tenure in the last two years.

For Amit Shah, politics without ideology is like a body without life - he has never hesitated to articulate it publicly. For him, there can be no policy formulation that is not inspired by ideology.

Along with this, the other hallmark of his tenure has been an unalloyed, undiluted and unapologetic adherence to the spirit of positive nationalism - a nationalism which brooks no compromise with India's unity, integrity and security.

An unequivocal articulation of that conviction by Shah, amidst a raging insistence, from an articulate and influential section - political, academic, media - that the demand for India's dismemberment is a justified call under freedom of expression, gave strength and faith to a vast section of patriotic citizens for whom India is a living entity fit to be adored, worshipped and protected.

Some leading Nehruvian and Left elite intellectuals have always reserved their strongest disdain for Amit Shah, a leader who has risen through the ranks and "reeks" of subalternism.

It does not matter to them that Shah has always been a brilliant student, actively maintains a personal library of over 30,000 books, is a voracious reader and can discuss Indian history, Bharatiya traditions, the scriptures, the freedom struggle and the post-independent political evolution of India for hours.

Unlike leaders the Nehruvian intellectuals eulogise, Shah's standing has never been derived from or dependent on coterie politics, kitchen cabinets, acolyte-driven and sycophantic power circles - manipulated and directed by unelected advisors, family retainers or pseudo-intellectuals.

Unlike the Congress dynasts, the political responsibility that has devolved on Shah has been because of his performance and political achievements and obviously not because he had a lineage. Denying himself physical comfort, family time and leisure, Shah has steadfastly toiled to build the party at the grassroots.

In a party which is not driven by dynastic diktat, but has grown organically and recognises talent and hard work, such consistent efforts do not go unnoticed.

The recent inductees in the Union cabinet, for example, have had impressive parliamentary attendance and involvement. Thus, as Shah himself always emphasises, the party recognises the nameless, yet toiling workers and showers them with recognition through responsibilities. As he says: "In the BJP one does not know who will become president after me, but in the Congress party it is known and always a foregone conclusion."

Unlike what some observers, commentators, lobbyists and dynast apologists would have us believe, Shah works on consensus building, appreciates and encourages free expression of opinion, believes in and respects differences of opinion and proceeds through a collective decision making.

While meeting workers and citizens from across the country two days of the month without prior appointment, he is often heard telling people "aapke vicharo ka swagat hai", your suggestions are welcome. 

These words are not mere assurance or pretention; for Shah, these are real and pulsating ones. Each note, each document, each suggestion received on such occasions is examined, summarised, analysed and if required directed to the relevant quarters.

The false stereotype that the Nehruvian and Left intellectuals have drawn of the so-called "right-wingers" does not, unfortunately for some, fit Shah.  

Political parties that operate only to install a particular family or dynasty in power will scarcely appreciate the democratic quest for power in a democracy. Some of their leaders' quest for power was for self alone and in trying to fulfil it they rod roughshod over democratic institutions.

The record of one particular party and its leaders' pursuit of power, post Independence, especially between 1975 and 1977, was characterised by forced sterilisation, custodial deaths, midnight knocks and disappearances and hounding and imprisonment of political opponents, superseding or sidelining of Supreme Court judges and the judiciary and making a mockery of Parliament.

Incidentally, in the last one decade, it is this very party and its patronised five star activists who have always hounded Shah, simply because, as Gujarat home minister, he had decided to firmly deal with terrorists and terrorism in the state.

In fact, during the years when he was hounded by the dynasty led Congress and driven out of Gujarat, Shah, instead of reminding us who he was - like some habitually do when faced with a judicial process - resolutely went through the judicial and custodial grind, without ever expressing doubt, dismay or contempt for the judicial processes of the land or for the Constitutional framework of justice.

Throughout their political careers, both Shah and Modi have, in fact, time and again displayed a dogged adherence to Constitutional and judicial values even when their political opponents were busy in trying to circumvent the system, trying to sabotage and subterfuge it in their ruthless quest to politically liquidate the duo.

Such behaviour is in stark contrast to what some dynasty-led party leaders have done during their time.

In the last two years that he has taken over the reins of the party, Shah has assiduously worked to spread its reach, he has not only gone into an overdrive to turn the party into a vehicle for bringing about a certain amount of social transformation and awareness, but has also made space for new initiatives.

Unlike dynasts in other parties who are impatient with civility and rectitude and who treated their party colleagues as pawns in their quest for unquestioned power, Shah has time and again given space for creativity, for younger colleagues and workers to have a voice and has respected ideas and encouraged new ventures.

The stereotype of Shah-Modi, especially of Shah, created by a section has, in fact, failed. This failure has created dismay and shock among certain sections of the Nehruvian elite.

New ideas, new debates, new energies and direction define the way ahead for the BJP under Shah. It is a time for "purnarnirmaan", an earthy sense; a deep intellectual penetration and an ideological self-renewal are its unmistakable signs.


Anirban Ganguly Anirban Ganguly @anirbanganguly

Director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi & Member, Policy Research Dept of BJP.

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