On 1 June, the Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah took charge as the union home minister of India. Shah, who is also a member of the Lok Sabha from Gujarat’s Gandhinagar constituency, has been the prime minister Narendra Modi’s most trusted lieutenant for decades now. Between 2002 and 2010, Shah held various ministerial portfolios in the Gujarat state government—including home, law and justice, and civil defence—under Modi’s chief ministership.
In the following excerpt from “The Organiser,” The Caravan’s April 2014 cover story, the journalist Poornima Joshi traces Modi and Shah’s association from the 1980s. “They have the same secretive, ambitious streak. He was Modi’s eyes and ears and perhaps the man who plotted most of his moves,” the former Gujarat chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, who was earlier a part of the BJP, told Joshi. “Shah is the only one Modi has relied on and, together, they may have retained power, but they destroyed the BJP in Gujarat organisationally and ideologically.”
Modi’s towering image may overshadow his deputy, but Shah is by no means a mere foil for his master. In December 2002, when Modi won his first election, in the aftermath of that year’s anti-Muslim riots, Shah was re-elected in his own assembly seat—by a staggering margin of 158,000 votes, more than double Modi’s. Shah bettered this performance in 2007, winning by 235,000 votes. He has been elected from his constituency, Sarkhej in Ahmedabad, four consecutive times.