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Strategist Shah flexes all poll muscles to win Guj

Shekhar Iyer, DH News Service, New Delhi Nov 14 2017, 23:55 IST

With his managerial skills on severe test in Gujarat, BJP chief Amit Shah is literally burning the midnight oil.

Right from the selection of candidates to fixing campaign pitch on a day-to-day basis, Shah is supervising it all, his aides say.

Not willing to allow slackness on any aspect of electioneering, Shah has been staying up late in 'Shree Kamalam', the state BJP headquarters on Gandhinagar-Ahmedabad highway.

Shah's main task is to finalise the exact number of sitting BJP legislators to be dropped this time.

Many party leaders believe that 80 of them may be replaced by fresh nominees to beat anti-incumbency factors. In the last polls held in 2012, the figure was 30.

Modi had denied tickets to 47 sitting MLAs in 2007. In 2002, when Modi led the BJP for the first time as chief minister, 18 of the 121 sitting MLAs were dropped.

No state election has ever seen a BJP national president sit with the district party chief, going into the nitty-gritty of the Assembly polls, which will be held on December 9 and 14.

"But Shah is not just the BJP national president. He has worked way up in the party because of his role in Gujarat politics. Also, until recently, he was a sitting MLA," said one of his aides.

Tougher task

Shah, who built his reputation as an ace poll strategist first in Uttar Pradesh during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, faces a tougher task in Gujarat.

"The BJP realises it needs more than Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pull on the ground to ensure an impressive victory," said Shah's poll team member. "We will have to fight hard and can't take chances when it comes to fighting huge anti-incumbency issues afflicting the BJP, which has been in power for more than three terms."

Shah has set a target of 150-plus seats for the BJP in this year's election so that the party improves upon its previous record. There are 182 seats in the Gujarat Assembly. This is the first election for the BJP without Modi as chief minister but as prime minister.

BJP leaders acknowledge that the party is facing an uphill task in many areas, largely on account of the performance of state ministers and functionaries since Modi exited Gujarat to become PM.

As the chief vote-catcher, Modi will be back in the state, addressing several meetings from November 20 once the list of candidates is declared on November 15 and 16. He is slated to address at least one rally in each of the 32 districts to cover five or six Assembly constituencies in one go.

Read more:The Amit Shah School of Election-winning

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