Gandhinagar: BJP president Amit Shah has been crisscrossing the country as one of his party’s leading campaigners in these Lok Sabha elections. But there is one constituency that he has been missing from — the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat where he is pitted against the Congress’ C.J. Chavda.
Shah has been only intermittently visiting the constituency, which the BJP patriarch L.K.Advani had not lost since 1998. In fact, ever since he filed his nomination on 30 March, he has only visited his Gandhinagar on two days.
Instead, the current BJP president has assigned his trusted strong backroom team of strategists and party leaders to manage his campaign in Gandhinagar while he tours the nation addressing political rallies, meets and holding talks with other top leaders.
The tale of three days
Shah’s nomination was turned into a roadshow that saw not only the top BJP leadership but those of the party’s allies as well. Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari, the Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackrey, the Lok Janshakti Party’s Ram Vilas Paswan and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) Prakash Singh Badal all lined up to give impetus to Shah’s nomination process. Advani, however, remained conspicuous by his absence.
Shah was then back in Gandhinagar on 6 April when two roadshows were organised on the same day. He then left to return on 14 April, to campaign in Kalol, an assembly constituency that the Congress had won in the 2017 elections. He also met with secretaries and chairmen of various societies in Gandhinagar.
BJP sources told ThePrint that Shah will take out one more roadshow in Sanand on 21 April, two days before Gujarat votes on 23 April.
The trusted backroom
Shah’s campaign managers in Gandhinagar include those who have been with him since he first fought an election — a bypoll at the Sarkhej assembly constituency in Ahmedabad in 1997.
One of them is Shah’s trusted aide Harshad Patel, who is the BJP president’s Lok Sabha incharge. “Patel was the district general secretary at that time. Then he became a BJP vice-president. He has been with Shah since the late 90s,” said a senior BJP leader.
Another of Shah’s trusted aides stationed in Gandhinagar is Bipin Patel Gota. The director of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) in Ahmedabad, Gota has also been with Shah since his Sarkhej days. “Gota is incharge of all the group meetings, public programmes and public interface events,” said another leader who is part of the campaign team.
Overseeing the media strategy is Navin Bhai Patel, whose association with Shah goes back to 1992. Shah was a secretary in the BJP then. “One thing that stood out about Shah was that he knew which of us is capable,” Navin Patel told ThePrint. “We may not be able to see what we are good at but Shah could see it and handed tasks to each of us accordingly.”
Shah was elected from Sarkhej in 1997 and then subsequently in 1998, 2002 and 2007.
For senior leaders in the party, Shah doesn’t need to come as he trusts his team.
“He knows them all. And he (Shah) has worked all his life in this constituency,” added the senior leader. “Despite this, he has visited the constituency thrice.”