New Delhi, Jan 24 (IANS) Amit Shah, a confidant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was on Sunday elected the BJP president for a full three-year term, retaining the post he has held since the party took power in India in 2014.
Shah, 51, who took charge of the party from now Home Minister Rajnath Singh, was elected unopposed at an event at the BJP headquarters attended by virtually all party leaders.
“Amit Shah has been elected unopposed,” Bharatiya Janata Party leader Avinash Rai Khanna told the media as hundreds of party activists cheered Shah and raised slogans hailing him and the party.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who flew to Chandigarh to receive French President Francois Hollande, was not present. But he congratulated Shah, and said he was confident the party “will scale newer heights under his leadership”.
“Amit bhai combines grassroot-level work and rich organizational experience which will benefit the party immensely,” said Modi, who is said to count Shah as one of his most trusted aides.
Rajnath Singh added: “He (Shah) has been an extremely successful party president. I am confident the BJP will continue its forward march under Shah’s stewardship and reach newer heights of success and glory.”
Besides Modi, the two other notable absentees from the BJP event were former party presidents L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, who are known to be unhappy with Shah’s style of functioning.
But the stage erected at the party office was crowded with visibly happy BJP leaders including another former president, M. Venkaiah Naidu. Many garlanded Shah and offered him bouquets. So did numerous party activists.
Shah did not address the gathering or speak to the media.
A science graduate, Shah rose to fame when he, as the party in-charge in Uttar Pradesh, led the BJP to a grand victory in the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha battle where it won 71 of the 80 seats — a record.
It was the Lok Sabha election where he and Modi combined to lead the party to a spectacular victory, ending 10 long years of Congress rule. The Congress was routed.
Shah came to be associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) in Gujarat in his young days. He met Modi in 1982, and the two have remained close since then.
He joined the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the RSS student wing, in 1983 and the BJP in 1986 — a year before Modi became a BJP member. Shah switched over to the BJP’s student wing, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, in 1987.
A four-time legislator in Gujarat, Shah was a former home minister in the state.
His reputation as a strategic organiser took a beating when the Aam Aadmi Party routed the BJP in the Delhi assembly election in February last year — the first popularity contest after the Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP was again defeated in the Bihar assembly election in November 2015. It was the Bihar defeat that triggered a revolt by some BJP veterans
including Advani and Joshi against Shah’s working style.