Amit Shah vs Yogi: the battle for Modi’s legacy

Insecurity is at the heart of every rivalry.  

Berth moore

In every sphere of life, rivalry is quite common. It has its pros and cons depending on the environment. The combative rivalry between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates has helped in building great products. But in the political arena, the rivalry can take ugly shapes. A political rivalry can turn negative or detrimental, especially in a situation where it’s related to succession plans.

On 11th May, following his release on bail, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal while addressing his supporters alleged that if the BJP regains power in 2024, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will be marginalized and Home Minister Amit Shah will assume the role of prime minister of India. Kejriwal claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would retire from active politics next year upon turning 75.

In his remarks, Arvind Kejriwal directly addressed the prime minister, stating,

While they inquire about our [opposition] candidate for prime minister, I counter by questioning their own candidate. Modi will reach the age of 75 on September 17 next year. In 2014, Modi established a precedent that anyone reaching this age would retire, beginning with senior leaders such as Advani, followed by Murli Manohar Joshi, Sumitra Mahajan, Yashwant Sinha and others. Now, Modi himself will retire on September 17. He is not seeking votes for himself but rather to pave the way for Amit Shah to become the next Prime Minister. Will Amit Shah fulfill the promises made under Modi’s Guarantee ?

In my article “Amit Shah: De-Facto Prime Minister of India,” written two years ago, I predicted that Modi would not contest the 2024 election for himself but, rather, would endorse his trusted lieutenant, Amit Shah.

Interestingly, although Modi has not announced his imminent retirement, other predictions in the article have come to fruition. As anticipated, Shivraj Chauhan, the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, was removed from his position despite winning the state election. Currently, Amit Shah largely controls the party’s activities including candidate selection and setting the party’s agenda.

In response to Kejriwal’s remarks, Amit Shah officially clarified that there is no stipulation in the BJP’s constitution regarding retirement at the age of 75, and Modi will complete his term.

However, it’s intriguing that such a statement did not come from the Party president, JP Nadda, or from Modi himself, who holds the authority to comment on the matter. This indicates who has the final word in the party.  

Notably, while Amit Shah is quite happily defending Modi, he remains silent on the question regarding Yogi. Typically, the BJP leaves no stone unturned in clarifying questions related to its organizational policies and agenda. Hence, the apparent rivalry between Yogi and Shah for Modi’s legacy raises questions about the dynamics within the party.

Guerilla war within BJP 

Yogi, also known as Yogi Adityanath, serves as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, a state crucial in determining national elections with its 80 Parliamentary seats, the largest in India.

Despite having played a pivotal role in securing 62 out of 80 seats for the BJP in the 2019 elections, Yogi has faced marginalization from the central leadership – evident in his exclusion from the BJP Parliamentary board and the appointment of two deputy chief ministers to keep him in check.

Even routine decisions in his tenure, such as officer appointments in the Chief Minister’s Office, were reportedly controlled directly by Modi, leading to speculation about a parallel government in UP run by Modi loyalists.

What has happened to some of Yogi’s loyalists – such as Dhanyjay Singh have been denied tickets for general elections; others such as Shiv Pratap Shukla, appointments to his cabinet – can be seen as steps in a campaign by Modi-Shah to undermine him.

Despite his strong following and support from RSS, questions arise as to why a leader like Yogi is sidelined, unlike Other BJP leaders  Hemant Bishwash Sharma, JP Nadda, and Mohan Yadav who are closely associated with Shah. 

Yogi is not likely to become anyone’s yes man. He has a following of his own. So, certainly, Yogi is the stronger contender for Modi’s legacy within the BJP.

Public opinion questions why Modi would opt for Amit Shah over Yogi as a successor. Kejriwal’s accusations don’t provide a reasonable explanation. What benefits does Modi gain from selecting Shah as his successor? 

A new dynasty in the making 

In Indian politics post-independence, the Congress party has ensured that the Nehru-Gandhi family remains the sole custodian of Centralized politics revolving around Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy. The family remains the focal points for leadership and ideological continuity. This model has provided the Congress with a stable brand identity, fostering a sense of loyalty and consistency among its followers.

The BJP traditionally lacked a single dynastic family. Adopting the Congress playbook will be a win-win deal for both Modi and Shah. Modi will be the tallest figure and the Shah family the sole custodian. This will not only act as a strategic maneuver to prevent any other leader within the BJP from overshadowing Modi’s legacy. But also ensuring that the Modi legacy of Hindutva remains unchallenged.

In a twist, Modi’s direct accusations against Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani for supporting the rival Congress party also indicates their disapproval of the deal. 

By entrusting the Shah family with this responsibility, Modi aims to safeguard his legacy for years to come. Yogi Adityanath, being a Hindu monk, may struggle to protect Modi’s legacy.

This covert Modi-Shah deal raises significant questions about the nature of political leadership in India. One critical issue is whether the country, which has experienced the pitfalls of dynastic politics with the Nehru-Gandhi family, is willing to accept another family-centric leadership model. 

The BJP, which has often criticized the Congress for its dynastic politics, risks undermining its democratic credentials by adopting a similar approach.

India faces a crucial question: Does it wish to replace one political dynasty with another – especially one lacking the same historical contributions as the Nehru-Gandhi family?

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