NEW DELHI: Congress leader Ahmed Patel scraping through to victory in the Rajya Sabha election may have come as a big personal setback for BJP chief Amit Shah but the party is not likely to suffer any substantial losses as it braces for electoral battles ahead in assembly polls, including Gujarat this December, under his leadership.
Shah has the reputation of going all out in pursuit of his goal and has worked with the same dogged determination in the past that he showed in the Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat. Party leaders recall how he had pressed several Union ministers into the campaign during the Delhi assembly elections when the party was staring at a rout. BJP could win only three of the 70 seats but did put up a fight. Similarly, in the Bihar assembly polls in 2015, he was combative till the last.
Shah is different from conventional politicians who would give a cakewalk to prominent leaders from opposing parties. In 2014, it was he who proposed Smriti Irani’s name as the candidate from Amethi against Congress VP Rahul Gandhi.
He had argued then she had nothing to lose as she was a member of the Rajya Sabha. BJP is confident that Patel’s win will not impact the Gujarat assembly polls. The exit of Shankarsinh Vaghela, who now faces political oblivion, may benefit Congress in the long run but the party is a weak force in Gujarat in comparison to BJP.
Shah who begins a new innings as a member of the Rajya Sabha, has a firmer grip on the BJP organisation in the three years he has been party chief. Party MPs will try to give their best in Parliament under his watchful eye. Shah will also have a more free hand while inducting new faces.
Shah’s first challenge will be to increase BJP’s tally in the 182-member Gujarat assembly from 121. The party had won 115 seats in 2012. Patel and his trusted lieutenant Bharatsinh Solanki have got a shot in the arm with the Rajya Sabha win, but the jury is out on whether Congress will increase its tally.
Himachal Pradesh also goes to polls in December and BJP is hopeful of defeating the Virbhadra Singhled Congress government, banking on the reported anti-incumbency against him. However, assembly elections to Karnataka, in early 2018, and later in MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan will not be a walkover for BJP and Shah will have to use his strategising skills to ensure a victory.
Since Shah continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of PM Modi, he may not find it difficult to take unpleasant decisions like denying the ticket to several sitting lawmakers in the coming polls. The BJP chief’s stature gets a boost with his arrival in the Rajya Sabha and he will become even more indispensable for Modi. Patel’s victory would not take this away from Shah.