Just a month ago, Lutyens’ Delhi was agog with rumours about how Home Minister Amit Shah had receded into the background since Covid struck. But he has reemerged most dramatically, showing up the sheer inability of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, and making it loud and clear who the real boss in Delhi is.
Home Minister Amit Shah appears as the ‘super CM’ of Delhi, the state’s ‘saviour’ in this hour of crisis. From making subtle attempts to convey this image through his actions, Shah has now taken to openly making the Kejriwal government seem inept and barely in-control. In an interview to ANI Sunday, Shah said that Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s statement in early June predicting that Delhi will see 5.5 lakh Covid cases by July end, had created “fear” among people. Shah also said how he disagreed with this projection.
In the past few weeks, Amit Shah has established himself as someone who is more than just the home minister to the capital. And Kejriwal, whose handling of the pandemic has exposed several flaws in his governance and politics, seems to be allowing Shah to have his way for now.
Looking to corner Kejriwal
Shah’s trademark aggression in Delhi is directed at carefully laying the foundation to destroy Kejriwal’s claims of good governance, and telling the people of Delhi, that the chief minister they overwhelmingly voted for, is good for nothing.
Shah is subtly ‘attacking’ Kejriwal where it hurts him the most. What could be worse for the Delhi CM than to be made to seem inadequate and ill-prepared for something which he has always sold to his voters as his government’s biggest achievement—a strong healthcare system.
There’s nothing Amit Shah loves more than to destroy his political opponents — whether it is through legitimate ways in elections, by using unethical means to topple governments, or simply by laying traps to make them appear weak.
Shah has trained his guns at the two most powerful and popular leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party — Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia.
As the crisis in Delhi began to explode and Kejriwal started to look directionless, Shah made it a point to seize the moment and take charge. He held an all-party meet, asking everyone to remain together in the capital’s fight against the coronavirus. He laid out a plan for Delhi, met Kejriwal frequently, and made a very powerful statement by making a surprise visit to the Delhi government-run Lok Nayak Jay Prakash Narayan (LNJP) hospital.
Modi and Shah are masters of optics. The image of Amit Shah behind a mask, landing up at LNJP and giving instructions, was intended at sending out a message to the Delhi voters: how Kejriwal government had failed. The sloppy handling of the pandemic by the AAP government has only helped Modi-Shah emphasise their own importance. And it did seem like the Centre’s intervention was much-needed to put Delhi back on track.
Shah’s attempt to corner the popular CM comes barely months after AAP swept the Delhi assembly poll, despite a very shrill, polarised and toxic campaign by the BJP. In that election, Kejriwal proved to Shah who the boss on Delhi’s political turf was. Amit Shah, in fact, was forced to express regret over his party’s vicious campaign, though of course, more of a show than an actual course correction.
But Amit Shah does not forget, or forgive, easily. Barely five months later, he has found the perfect chance to avenge his humiliation by Kejriwal — the disgrace of the mighty Shah, who has an election-winning brain, being reduced to dust by a relatively new politician.
From silence to the forefront
Despite being the home minister, Amit Shah spent the first couple of months of the Covid crisis in the background, with many wondering what was holding him back. Until then, Shah had been the Modi government’s go-to man of all seasons and reasons ever since he became the home minister.
From being the face of crucial decisions of the Modi government (Article 370, the new citizenship law and the Triple Talaq legislation) to leading the political charge ahead of state elections alongside Modi, Amit Shah was at the centre of Modi 2.0.
Covid, however, suddenly took Shah from the forefront to oblivion. He was running his ministry as usual, holding meetings, but away from public glare — very unlike the politician who loves to be combative and remains in the limelight. Covid was Modi’s battle, and there was little space for Amit Shah’s belligerent approach. Matters in Delhi, however, are a different ballgame.
The Delhi intervention serves Amit Shah two objectives. First, it helps him come out of the Covid oblivion. Second, and more importantly, it allows him to show a political enemy in a bad light. For Kejriwal, meanwhile, this may be a necessity for now, given how the situation was slipping out of his hands. But Amit Shah’s projection as ‘super CM’ is a real PR and political disaster.
Views are personal.