Home Minister Amit Shah made headlines earlier this month when he claimed that the Delhi assembly election was a battle of two “ideologies”. In January, Shah had said that the results should shock everyone, as he urged voters to press the EVM button with such anger that Shaheen Bagh feels the “current“.
This week, Shah brought himself back to the front pages of newspapers with a complete U-turn, as far as his tone and tenor are concerned. At the 2020 Times Now Summit Thursday, the home minister said that statements like ‘goli maaro…’ and ‘India versus Pakistan match’ ought not to have been made, and that these may have cost the BJP the Delhi election.
From being a firebrand politician who made questionable and incendiary speeches as a campaigner, to a coy leader who went silent after the assembly election results and now, a more muted figure breaking his silence and condemning provocative speeches — Amit Shah is ThePrint’s newsmaker of the week.
Shah: BJP’s chief rabble-rouser
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be Bharatiya Janata Party’s most popular leader and main face, Shah — as the party’s chief election strategist — has been a key figure in all of its electoral campaigns.
Amit Shah has meticulously crafted himself as this feisty, no-holds-barred and inflammatory campaigner, someone who has no qualms about inciting communal sentiments.
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In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Shah audaciously termed ‘infiltrators’ as ‘termites’ who need to be thrown into the Bay of Bengal. The infiltrator was, of course, the Muslim immigrant because for the Hindu ones, he had the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) carrot ready.
Even the courts don’t matter to him, as he has openly defied them on a number of occasions — from Ayodhya to Sabarimala. During the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Shah had said that Wayanad — Rahul Gandhi’s constituency — reminded him of Pakistan.
The Delhi election has been no different in terms of the display of theatrics. BJP leaders, including ministers like Anurag Thakur, have resorted to a polarising political grammar, with Shah adding his spice into the mix with remarks such as “current” and “ideologies”.
The sudden retreat
When the Delhi assembly election results were declared, the BJP was left embarrassed after securing just eight out of the total 70 seats. Though to be fair, the party had not expected to do well in the national capital in any case, and the impact of its toxic campaign may not have helped its cause much.
And yet, for Shah — himself a fairly vicious campaigner — to have condemned the speeches after remaining quiet all this while is surprising. Even more inexplicable is his sudden realisation that provocative statements may have hurt the BJP’s prospects in Delhi, given that polarisation on communal lines is intrinsic to his party and its politics.
Does this mean that the BJP is introspecting and looking at a course correction? Highly unlikely given its brand of politics and ideology. This is the typical ‘carrot and stick’ or the good-cop/bad-cop approach Modi and Shah often follow. Provocative and savage during a moment, and statesman-like and muted in the next.
Amit Shah is no longer just a top BJP leader. He is now the home minister of India — a constitutional position that commands great responsibility. This latest attempt to seem humble, introspective and measured could well be Shah’s strategy to play his part as the home minister with elan. But make no mistake, come Bihar, Assam and West Bengal assembly elections, and we’ll have the old Amit Shah back in form.
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