27 July, 2021

The Shah Of Political Chess

The political constellation on the ground and the signs in the sky are all working out for Modi’s general as he strives to close the gaps in India’s saffron map

Photograph by Jitender Gupta
The Shah Of Political Chess

Midway through the UP assembly elections, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the kabristan-shamshaan statement, it was seen as an attempt to polarise voters by highlighting min­ority appeasement and “bhedbhav” (discrimination) by the Akhilesh ­Yadav government. Modi, who had been talking of development ­until then, had suddenly changed tack and introduced religion into his campaign pitch. This is wid­ely believed to have been done at the beh­est of his party chief Amit Shah, who is said to have convinced Modi about the possible dividends.

The PM’s statement was made at a rally in Fatehpur on February 19, when votes for the third phase were being polled. It became a talking point for days to come as leaders of other parties kept raking it up. “The more the other parties talked about it, the more the atmosphere got polarised, benefiting the BJP. It was a masterstroke by Amit Shah,” says a senior party leader.

The anecdote not only highlights how closely Shah, 52, had studied the ground situation, but also the trust...

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