Last Updated on August 25, 2020
Amit Anilchandra Shah is an Indian politician currently serving as the Minister of Home Affairs. He served as the President of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from 2014 to 2020. He was elected to the lower house of Parliament, Lok Sabha, in the 2019 Indian general elections from Gandhinagar. Earlier, he had been elected as a member of the upper house of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, from Gujarat in 2017. Sworn in at the age of 54, he is the youngest serving full-time Home Minister. He is the chief strategist of the BJP and a close aide to Narendra Modi.
|Born||Amit Anilchandra Shah|
22 October 1964 (age 55)
Bombay, Maharashtra, India
|Political party||Bharatiya Janata Party|
|Alma mater||Gujarat University (BSc)|
During his college days, Shah was a member of the ABVP, the student wing of the RSS. At the age of 18, he secured a position in the ABVP and joined the BJP in 1987. Shah was first elected in Gujarat as the MLA for a seat partly covering Ahmedabad, Sarkhej in 1997 (a by-election). He continued to hold it in the 1998, 2002 and 2007 elections until the seat’s dissolution in 2008; he then got elected from the nearby Naranpura in 2012. As a close associate of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, he held executive portfolios in the Gujarat state government.
Shah was the BJP’s in-charge for India’s largest and politically most crucial state, Uttar Pradesh, during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP and its allies won 73 out of 80 seats. As a result, Shah rose to national prominence and was appointed as the party’s national president in July 2014.
He has played an organizing and membership-promotional role in the elections of many states since 2014. In his initial two years, the BJP achieved success in Legislative Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand and Assam but lost ground in Delhi and the large eastern state of Bihar in 2015.
In 2017, he was partly credited with the party victories in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Manipur, but the Akali-BJP alliance lost power in the larger Punjab election. In 2018, the party lost power in the states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. A year later, the BJP won 303 seats to get a majority in the 2019 Indian general election under Shah’s leadership.
Shah was born in Mumbai on 22 October 1964. He came from a Gujarati Hindu Vaishnava family, who were Baniyas. His great grandfather was the Nagarseth of the small state of Mansa. His father, Anil Chandra Shah, a businessman from Mansa, owned a successful PVC pipe business. He went to school in Mehsana and moved to Ahmedabad to study biochemistry at CU Shah Science College. He graduated with a BSc degree in biochemistry and then worked for his father’s business. He also worked as a stockbroker and in co-operative banks in Ahmedabad.
Shah was involved with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since childhood; he participated in the neighbourhood shakhas (branches) as a boy. He formally became an RSS swayamsevak (volunteer) during his college days in Ahmedabad. He first met Narendra Modi in 1982 through the Ahmedabad RSS circles. At that time, Modi was an RSS pracharak (propagator), working as in-charge of youth activities in the city.
Early political career
Entry into politics
Shah started his political career as a leader of the student wing of the RSS, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, in 1983. He joined BJP in 1987, one year before Modi joined the party. He became an activist of the BJP’s youth wing, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), in 1987. He gradually rose in the BJYM hierarchy, in which he held various posts including ward secretary, taluka secretary, state secretary, vice-president and general secretary. He became known for his management skills when he was the election campaign manager for Lal Krishna Advani in Gandhinagar during the 1991 Lok Sabha elections.
In 1995, the BJP formed its first government in Gujarat, with Keshubhai Patel as Chief Minister. At that time, the Indian National Congress, the BJP’s main rival, was highly influential in rural Gujarat. Modi and Shah worked together to eliminate Congress in the rural areas. Their strategy was to find the second-most influential leader in every village and get them to join the BJP. They created a network of 8,000 influential rural leaders who had lost elections to the pradhan (village chief) post in various villages.
Modi and Shah used the same strategy to reduce Congress’ influence over the state’s powerful co-operatives, which played an important role in the state’s economy. In 1999, Shah was elected as the president of the Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank (ADCB), the biggest cooperative bank in India. In Gujarat, such elections had traditionally been won on caste considerations, and the co-operative banks had traditionally been controlled by Patels, Gaderias and Kshatriyas. Despite not belonging to any of these castes, Shah won the election. At that time, the bank was on the verge of collapse, as they had accumulated losses of ₹36 crores. Shah turned around the bank’s fortune within a year; the following year, the bank registered a profit of ₹27 crores. By 2014, its profit had increased to around ₹250 crores. Shah also ensured that 11 of the bank’s 22 directors were BJP loyalists.
Modi and Shah also sought to reduce Congress’ hold over sports bodies in the state. Shah served as the president of the Gujarat State Chess Association. In 2009, he became the vice-president of the profitable Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA), while Modi served as its president. In 2014, after Modi became Prime Minister of India, Shah became the president of GCA.
Modi, who had become a general secretary in the party’s state unit by the early 1990s, used his influence to get bigger roles for Shah. He convinced Patel to appoint Shah as the chairman of the Gujarat State Financial Corporation, a public sector financial institution that finances small and medium-scale enterprises. After Shankersinh Vaghela and some other leaders complained about Modi’s growing popularity in the Gujarat government, the party leadership moved Modi out of Gujarat to the BJP headquarters in Delhi. During this time (1995–2001), Shah served as Modi’s confidante in Gujarat.
In 1997, Modi lobbied to get Shah a BJP ticket for the Gujarat Legislative Assembly by-election in Sarkhej. Shah became an MLA in February 1997 after winning the by-election. He retained his seat in the 1998 Assembly elections.
Rise in national politics
After Modi became the prime-ministerial candidate of the BJP, Shah’s influence also increased in the party. They had been accused of sidelining other BJP leaders, such as Lal Krishna Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Murli Manohar Joshi and Jaswant Singh.. By this time, Shah had gained recognition as an excellent election campaign manager and was dubbed a “modern-day Chanakya and master strategist”. Shah was appointed as a BJP general secretary and given charge of Uttar Pradesh (UP). He was chosen not by Modi, but by Rajnath Singh, who had been impressed by the skills Shah displayed in wresting control of various Congress-controlled organizations in Gujarat. The decision did not go down well with many of the party members, who saw him as a liability owing to the criminal charges against him. Political analysts such as Shekhar Gupta termed the decision as a blunder.
President of the BJP
In July 2014, the BJP’s central parliamentary board unanimously approved Shah’s appointment as president of the party. He was reelected as the party’s president unanimously on 24 January 2016. After becoming party president, Shah started an aggressive membership drive, and by March 2015, the BJP had claimed 100 million members.
In 2014 to 2016, the BJP achieved success in Legislative Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand and Assam but lost the elections in Delhi and Bihar.
Shah also spearheaded campaigning in the 2017 assembly elections, which resulted in the party’s success in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. This was the BJP’s greatest run in recent elections; they won 312 seats out of 403. The BJP also progressed in Manipur. The BJP won the 2017 Gujarat Legislative Assembly polls for a record six times and wrested power from Congress during the 2017 Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly polls. In March 2018, the BJP won for the first time in the left-ruled north-eastern state of Tripura, where they won two-thirds of the votes. The BJP also made gains in Nagaland and Meghalaya and formed a government in both states with its allies.
Shah led the BJP to victory in the 2019 Indian general election; he became the most successful BJP president. During the election campaign, he visited 312 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies, holding 18 roadshows, 161 public meetings and over 1,500 BJP meetings.
He is an admirer of Chanakya and often referred to as a modern-day Chanakya, who had skillfully replaced the Nanda dynasty by the young Chandragupta Maurya. Responding to questions about a portrait of Chanakya at his New Delhi residence in 2016, he said: “[I admire] Chanakya because he was knowledgeable. His sutras are eternal. Economics, politics, the problem of governance are all there.” The Bhagavata Purana is another of his favorite books, which he studied when he was in prison.
Union Cabinet Minister
Minister of Home Affairs
Shah took oath as Cabinet Minister on 30 May 2019 and took office as Minister of Home Affairs on 1 June 2019. On 5 August 2019, Shah moved a resolution to scrap Article 370 in the Rajya Sabha and divide the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two, with Jammu and Kashmir serving as one of the union territories, and Ladakh serving as a separate union territory.
In September 2019, Shah talked about how India needs one unifying language; he said the Hindi language should be spoken to unite the country and represent India in the world. In a tweet, he also appealed the Indians to increase the use of the Hindi language.
On 19 November 2019, Shah declared in the Rajya Sabha of the Indian parliament that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) would be implemented throughout the country.
In December 2019, he introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, which grants Indian citizenship to religiously persecuted minority communities who migrated to the country before 2015 from the Muslim-majority countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. In Northeast India, the act raised concerns about the impact of immigration on local culture and politics, which caused people to protest against the Act. Elsewhere, the opposition parties criticized the Act’s exclusion of Muslims as detrimental to India’s pluralism. Shah insisted the bill was not anti-Muslim, because it did not change their existing path to citizenship.
Since 1989, Shah has fought 28 elections to various local bodies.
|Election||Year||Constituency||Result||Votes||% of votes||Source|
|Gujarat Legislative Assembly (by-election)||1997||Sarkhej||Won||76,839||56.10%|
|Gujarat Legislative Assembly||1998||Sarkhej||Won||193,373||69.81%|
|Gujarat Legislative Assembly||2002||Sarkhej||Won||288,327||66.98%|
|Gujarat Legislative Assembly||2007||Sarkhej||Won||407,659||68.00%|
|Gujarat Legislative Assembly||2012||Naranpura||Won||103,988||69.19%|
|Indian general election||2019||Gandhinagar||Won||888,210||69.76%|
Shah was accused of sidelining the police officers who testified against the Gujarat government in cases related to the fake encounters and the 2002 riots. Shah has also been accused of manipulating the electoral constituency delimitation exercise in Gujarat to favour the BJP
In 2013, Shah was accused of having ordered illegal surveillance on a woman in 2009 during his tenure as a home minister. The investigative websites Cobrapost and Gulail released a set of taped audio conversations between Shah and police officer GL Singhal. The tapes had been submitted to the CBI in the Ishrat Jahan case and were leaked to these portals. The calls detail how the state machinery was used to surveil the woman and the IAS officer Pradeep Sharma (who was suspended by the Gujarat government). In the recordings, both Singhal and Shah repeatedly refer to a higher authority as Saheb, which is believed to be Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Shah denied all the accusations against him; he called them political propaganda by his opponents. The BJP’s political opponents demanded a probe in the Snoopgate case. However, in May 2014, the woman approached the Supreme Court and stated that the surveillance on her was based on a “personal request”, and she was thankful to the Gujarat government for ensuring her safety. She requested the court to block any investigation, stating it would violate her privacy.
Hindutva and religious polarization
Shah has been a key present-day proponent of Hindutva Shah convinced the Modi government in Gujarat to pass the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Bill, which made religious conversions difficult in the Hindu-majority state. The bill, according to critics, went against the rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, but Shah defended the bill, which he called a measure against forced conversions.
He has been accused of making several religiously polarizing comments regarding Muslims and has been banned by the Election Commission for his remarks during the UP campaign. In 2018, Shah said: “Infiltrators are like termites in the soil of Bengal,” and regarding the solution of this, stated: “A Bharatiya Janata Party government will pick up infiltrators one by one and throw them into the Bay of Bengal.”
In December 2019, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) asked the US administration to consider imposing sanctions against Shah if the Indian parliament passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. USCIRF in its statement said: “CAB is a dangerous turn in the wrong direction; it runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith.” The commission said that the CAB “enshrines a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that specifically excludes Muslims, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion”. The external affairs ministry issued a counter-statement in response to USCIRF by saying it was not based on facts and the bill was to grant citizenship to persecuted religious minorities who arrived in India and does not aim to strip citizenship.
Shah is married to Sonal Shah and the couple have a son named Jay. Shah was very close to his mother, who died from an illness on 8 June 2010. People close to Shah have described him as someone who does not like to socialize much. He has six sisters, two of whom live in Chicago. In September 2019, he was operated for lipoma at the backside of his neck. On August 2, 2020, Shah was tested positive for COVID-19 and has been admitted to the hospital