September 27, 2012 · 0 Comments
There was a sense of muted jubilation at the BJP National Council meeting when news broke that the Supreme Court had rejected the CBI’s plea to cancel the bail granted to former Gujarat minister Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case. Shah will be permitted to travel to Gujarat, but his trial will be moved outside the state to Mumbai.
It was one of the most eagerly-awaited verdicts in BJP circles, and many leaders welcomed the judgment. The reason is clear: Shah is a key political strategist for Narendra Modi, and with the Gujarat elections less than two months away, the judgment will have a significant bearing on the BJP’s electoral strategy and campaign style.
Shah was the youngest minister in Modi’s cabinet when first inducted 2003. His victory margins in his assembly constituency Sarkhej have been 1.58 lakh and 2.35 lakh in the last two elections, indicating his political standing with voters.
Sources confirmed that though Shah has been living outside Gujarat (mostly in Delhi) these last few months due to the previous orders of the Supreme Court, he remained in constant touch with Narendra Modi and other leaders in formulating strategy to contain the Congress’ possible rise this time. He kept himself fully informed on the smallest developments in the state. In Delhi, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, had been his patron. Shah acted as interlocutor between Modi and party President Nitin Gandkari on various issues, including the most contentious issue of getting Sanjay Joshi out of the National Executive, and the party organisation.
While Modi has already hit the campaign trail, the Supreme Court order is sure to be shape and sharpen the public discourse during the forthcoming election battle for the BJP.
A senior BJP leader told that Amit Shah has two options – contest elections from Sarkhej or stay out of it himself, but take charge of campaigning for the party full-time. In this event, he could join Nitin Gadkari’s new team as General Secretary of the national party after the Gujarat elections.
Shah, in fact, had been offered the coveted post of General Secretary after Ravi Shankar Prasad had to quit to take up his new assignment as the party’s Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha. But, after a review, Shah and the top leadership chose to keep that option pending till the Supreme Court verdict in order to avoid a possible embarrassment in case things went wrong.
For the record, BJP Vice-President Purshottam Rupala, who hails from Gujarat, said it was up to the parliamentary board to decide whether or not Shah would contest the elections but insiders said this decision would be guided by Modi.
Gadkari, in his presidential speech, had referred to Amit Shah and the Rajendra Rathore cases as examples of “Congress’ blatant abuse of CBI to target political rivals”. The indications are that Shah’s entry in Gujarat over the next few days will become one of the key electoral talking points.
Gujarat Congress leaders have so far stayed clear of hyping any court verdict for fear of communal polarisation, so much so that no state leader said much even on the Naroda Patia judgment, in which a court sentenced former BJP minister, Maya Kodnani, to jail for 28 years. The only reaction today was from senior Congress leader Jagdambika Pal, who expressed dismay and feared that Shah’s entry into Gujarat would vitiate the atmosphere there.
However, the current reprieve for Shah could prove to be temporary as the CBI has filed a chargesheet against him in the Tulsiram Prajapati murder case and named him as the mastermind. There is no ruling out his arrest if he lands in Gujarat. But then there is another possibility that the agency will wait till the Gujarat elections are over to make its next move.
By Web Editor