His selection as the party chief came at a crucial time, a few months ahead of the Maharashtra assembly elections due later this year. The senior BJP leader was instrumental behind the party’s thumping victory in Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. With Shah in charge, the BJP and its allies won 73 of the 80 seats in the politically crucial state, setting the tone for the party’s landslide win in the general elections.
Shah, 49, will succeed Rajnath Singh, who has been appointed as the home minister in the BJP-led government at the Centre. His selection to the president’s post was finalised by the BJP’s parliamentary board, the saffron party’s highest decision-making body.
Prime Minister Modi said Shah’s elevation will help the BJP expand its influence and become stronger in the country.
“Amit bhai started his (political) journey as an ordinary karyakarta (party worker) and has repeatedly proven himself through tireless hard work and determination,” Modi said.
Shah, a share trader by profession, accepted sweets and bouquets from party colleagues, including Modi, Rajnath Singh, LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, after his elevation.
Shah is expected to give a complete makeover to the BJP’s organisational structure, replacing at least three vice-presidents and three general secretaries who are now ministers in the Modi cabinet.
First elected to the Gujarat assembly in 1997, Shah describes his hobbies as cricket, reading and social service. He was the Gujarat home minister when Modi was the chief minister of the state. Shah had to step down in 2010 after allegations that he sanctioned a fake encounter by the state police, which saw three Muslims being killed by officers who alleged they were terrorists planning to assassinate Modi.
Shah also faces murder charges for allegedly allowing the encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi. Shah denies the charges saying they are a political conspiracy.