Prashant Jha's How the BJP wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine will tell you how Shah was elevated within the party, and how BJP stormed into unconquered bastions. Reuters file photo/Amazon.com
Amit Shah, who is now described as the modern-day Chanakya in Indian politics, was not a famous figure in Indian politics before 2002. He was just 37 years old then, much younger than his peers. In 2010, he was externed from his state as per the conditions imposed in a bail order related to an alleged extrajudicial execution.
It is said that he travelled across the country during that time. Shah, in 2013, was given the charge of BJP's Uttar Pradesh state unit, keeping an eye on 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Soon after the landslide victory in UP, he was elevated as BJP's national president -- arguably the second or third most powerful position in the country now.
Visiting the poll-bound south Indian state Karnataka, recently, according to reports, he advised its chief ministerial candidate, current state unit president and the former CM, B S Yeddyurappa to leave his parent constituency and to move to North Karnataka in the 2018 poll. A north Indian politician, who has comparatively smaller experience in the pan- Indian context, deciding the Assembly seat of a south Indian leader, must elicit surprise among the political analysts.
Prashant Jha's How the BJP wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine will tell you how Shah was elevated within the party, and how BJP stormed into unconquered bastions.
The Modi wave of 2014 apparently affected the book publishing business as well. English and vernacular book houses carried Modi's face on their bookshelves. Interestingly, most of those books looked at media management, the appeal of Modi's image, the development slogan of the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, and the alleged religious polarization by Sangh Parivar organizations. But they all lacked the detail of an important factor: Amit Shah's organization.
Prashant Jha, an associate editor with Hindustan Times, met the booth-level cadres to the state general secretaries of BJP in UP during election time and post-election as well. His book gives a detailed account of BJP-UP, focussing on the Assembly elections. The book also looks at why BJP lost its race in Bihar from a logical and electoral point of view.
The book offers a dispassionate analysis of the performance of BJP in those elections. And reading the book will help readers realize how BJP won, and what exactly was lacking in the other parties. Bear in mind that this is not just a by-the-numbers academic electoral study of a huge chunk of data. The book is a layered narrative which also breaks down the data, so the reader can understand it better.
Sample this: "To the upper castes, Modi represented a party which was most in tune with their aspirations. For the deprived castes, Modi was one of their own who would deliver justice and jobs. To the upper middle class and middle class, his strongest base, Modi was the man who would make them richer. To the disadvantaged, he was the chaiwallah who had made it big. To all of them, he represented hope."
Jha also details how Modi achieved this image, how he projected himself as a messiah who came to teach the privileged a lesson. His speeches in the rallies were expertly crafted and clear while Rahul Gandhi made it really complex during key situations, Jha explains. And the other feather in BJP's cap? Social media. Congress was nowhere near to BJP in its presence on social media.
Beyond all, Amit Shah managed to rally the underprivileged against the dominant castes.
Again, this was not an easy task. Shah reshuffled the BJP, providing space for them without inviting the wrath of upper castes. He made them feel like that it was their party, Jha notes. And this required enormous planning. Understanding the situation of each state and analysing its complicatedness and forming equations was a herculean task. And to this end, Shah worked hard and made others also work as hard.
The unfilled gap in the vote share, according to Jha, was achieved through bringing opposition leaders into the BJP camp: an old weapon of the Modi-Shah arsenal which they had successfully implemented in Gujarat, nearly 20 years ago. In an interview given to Open magazine in 2014 April, Shah had said that they managed to bring in almost 8,000 village pradhans who lost in the election and shepherded them into the BJP faction. With this shrewd move, they could break the Congress hold and get more votes during the process.
This book is a must-read for BJP supporters who are interested in their party, as also a primer for the opposition to learn from: on missed opportunities, misguided strategies, and missteps.