New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah was assigned the Home portfolio in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new government on Friday.
Widely credited and celebrated for BJP’s resounding victory in the recently-concluded Lok Sabha elections, Shah succeeds Rajnath Singh, who has been given charge of the Defence Ministry in the new NDA government. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance returned to power with 353 seats in the elections. The BJP alone won 303 seats.
Called the “Chanakya” of contemporary Indian politics, Shah and Modi came to be closely associated while working in Gujarat power corridors or the lanes leading to it in their early days.
During his tenure as a minister in Gujarat, Amit Shah held several portfolios including transport, police, housing, border security, civil defence, gram rakshak dal, Home Guards, prison, prohibition, excise, law and justice, parliamentary affairs and the coveted Home Ministry. Throughout his days in Gujarat government and as the BJP president (which he still is), Shah has to his credit of ruling with an iron fist and not bowing to criticism or consensus.
Assuming office on Saturday at 11:30 am, Amit Shah will thenceforth have his plate full with work on the Jammu and Kashmir front, the National Register of Citizens in Assam and insurgency among other subjects.
Addressing a rally in Dhanbad on May 8 this year, Amit Shah had thundered to throw out all or any immigrant from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. “The illegal immigrants are destroying the country like termites if you help Modi government once again, I assure you the country will be free of illegal trespassers from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, and Kolkata to Kutch.”
Shah’s appointment as the Home Minister is also being read as a major push to the Citizenship Amendment Bil, which aims to legitimise residency of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Parsis who came to India in wake of religious persecution in neighbouring countries like Bangladesh.
Another of mammoth tasks waiting on the table for Shah will be ‘annulling Article 35A’ which the BJP manifesto for 2019 elections read as “discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir.”
(Article 35A of the Indian Constitution is an article that allows the Jammu and Kashmir state’s legislature to define “permanent resident” of the state. It restricts non-Jammu & Kashmir residents from getting employment in the state and/or buying property there. Moreover, if a native woman marries a non-resident, her children are denied the right of permanent resident certificate and restricts their right to her or any property.)
Given Shah’s image of being an astute politician and a quick, resolute decision-maker, insiders from the Minister of Home Affairs are confident that days of a soft approach to stone-pelters, and separatists in the Valley are over. Taking over from a taciturn Rajnath Singh, Shah is expected to be a ‘hands-on boss’, like a senior bureaucrat admitted, “Unlike his predecessor Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah will be a very hands-on boss.”
Shah is also expected to aggressively preside over matters of Naxalism and political killings in both Kerala and West Bengal too. Under him, the forces can expect to be given a free hand and a trigger-happy rein to shift Naxal-dominated areas back into the contours of Constitutional parameters.
One of the attention-grabbing details in Shah’s tenure will be his fellowship with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who was known as the eyes and ears of erstwhile Home Minister Rajnath Singh. With Shah’s proximity with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this power dynamic may also shift gears.