The ‘Chanakya’ of modern Indian politics, Amit Shah, received the much coveted Home Ministry during the second term of Modi government. Although, India does not have an official number two position (the post of Deputy Prime Minister has been vacant since 2002) in the government as all ministers are considered ‘equally important’ with Prime Minister being their leader. However, the post of Home Minister is considered the unofficial number two position in the government. The appointment of Amit Shah as the Home Minister by PM Modi is, thus, indicative of his stature in the cabinet. Essentially, Amit Shah now holds the de facto number two position in the Modi government, second only to PM Modi. This point has also been reinforced through several other recent developments.
Similar precedence was in Gujarat since 2002, when Modi government was first elected in the state, to July 2010, when Shah was forced to resign due to ‘vendetta politics’ of the Congress government at the center. Shah was number two in Modi led Gujarat government and at one point of time handled 12 ministries (Home, Law and Justice, Prison, Border Security, Civil Defence, Excise, Transport, Prohibition, Home Guards, Gram Rakshak Dal, Police Housing, and Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs).
In the second term of Modi government, Shah again comes out as Modi’s most trusted lieutenant. He has been appointed to all eight cabinet committees namely Appointments Committee, Committees on Accommodation, Economic Affairs, Parliamentary Affairs, Political Affairs, Security, Investment and Growth and Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development, the only minister to have such position. Rajnath Singh, the defense minister of the country and de jure number two in the government this and previous Modi government is member of only 6 committees. The situation here is similar to that of Gujarat where finance minister Vajubhai Vala was official number two. “In the government, No. 2 was Vajubhai Vala, then Finance Minister, but that was only theoretical. For all practical purposes, Amit bhai was the most important person after CM Modi,” said a retired bureaucrat.
The Modi government reconstituted NITI Aayog in the second term and Amit Shah has been appointed as ex officio member of the government think tank. Recently, Amit Shah chaired a meeting to discuss oil prices and Bharat Petroleum’s proposal to invest 2.4 billion dollar rupees in a gas field in resource-rich East African country, Mozambique, something which was never done by Rajnath Singh as Home minister. Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant were among the invitees in the meeting at North Block. The meeting made it very evident that Shah is number two in the second term of Modi Government.
In another display of Shah’s authority and importance, he is to be allotted the bungalow of late prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “The official bungalow of the former prime minister on Krishna Menon Marg has been allotted to Union Home Minister Amit Shah,” said a government official. Vajpayee lived in the bungalow on Krishna Menon Marg for more than 14 years after his government lost the 2004 election. The allotment of Vajpayee’s bungalow is of great significance and carries symbolic value given the respect for the late prime minister among the party workers and people of the country.
In the last one week, it has become very clear that Shah is the de facto number two in this government. Gujarat became the most efficiently governed the state and economic growth reached double digits under Modi-Shah. The two leaders are expected to do the same at the national level and this would be best for the future of India.