Amit Shah

Amitabh Anilchandra Shah[2] (born 22 October 1964) is an Indian politician and the current Minister of Home Affairs who has been President of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2014. He was elected to the lower House of Parliament the Lok Sabha in the 2019 Indian general election from Gandhinagar. He was earlier elected as a member of the upper House of Parliament the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat in 2017. He also became the youngest serving full-time Home Minister at an age of 54.[2] He is the chief strategist of the BJP and a close aide to Narendra Modi.[3][4]

Amit Shah
Minister of Home Affairs
Assumed office
30 May 2019
Prime MinisterNarendra Modi
Preceded byRajnath Singh
Chairperson of the National Democratic Alliance
Assumed office
9 July 2014
Preceded byL. K. Advani
President of the Bharatiya Janata Party
Assumed office
9 July 2014
Preceded byRajnath Singh
Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha
Assumed office
23 May 2019
Preceded byL. K. Advani
Majority8,94,624 (69.6%)
Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
In office
19 August 2017  29 May 2019
Preceded byDilip Pandya
Succeeded bySubrahmanyam Jaishankar
Member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly
In office
Preceded byKaushik Patel
In office
Preceded byHarishchandra Lavjibhai Patel
Home Minister of Gujarat
In office
Personal details
Born (1964-10-22) 22 October 1964[1]
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Political partyBharatiya Janata Party
Spouse(s)Sonal Shah
ChildrenJay Shah
Alma materGujarat University

During his college days Shah was a member of ABVP, 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) holding it in 1998, 2002 and 2007 until the seat's 2008 dissolution, then for nearby Naranpura, from 2012-2017. He is a close associate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and held executive portfolios in the state government during Modi's tenure as its Chief Minister.

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 swept the state, registering their best performance, by winning 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.[5]

He has played an organising and membership-promotional role in 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 in 2014 and in Assam but lost ground in Delhi and the large eastern state of Bihar in 2015.

He was in 2017 partly credited with the party landslides in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and the party's modern heartland state of Gujarat[6] in which year was marked the party's strong debut in much smaller Manipur, but the Akali-BJP alliance lost power in considerably larger Punjab.[7] In 2018 the party lost power in the states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The next year, BJP won 303 seats to get majority in the 2019 Indian general election, making Amit Shah the most successful BJP President ever.[8]

Early life

Amit Shah was born in Mumbai on 22 October 1964.[9] His family were well-to-do Gujarati Hindu Baniya family.[10][11][12] His great grandfather was the nagarseth of the small state of Mansa.[13] His father Anil Chandra Shah, a businessman from Mansa, owned a successful PVC pipe business.[14] He did his schooling in Mehsana and moved to Ahmedabad to study biochemistry at CU Shah Science College. He graduated with a B.Sc. degree in biochemistry, and then worked for his father's business.[14] He also worked as a stockbroker and in co-operative banks in Ahmedabad.[15]

Shah was involved with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh since childhood, participating in the neighbourhood shakhas (branches) as a boy. He formally became an RSS swayamsevak (volunteer) during his college days in Ahmedabad.[10] He first met Narendra Modi in 1982 through Ahmedabad RSS circles.[10] At that time, Modi was an RSS pracharak (propagator), working as in-charge of youth activities in city.[14]

Early political career

Amit Shah started his political career as a leader of the student wing of the RSS, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, in 1983.[10][16] He joined BJP in 1987, one year before Modi joined the party.[14] He became an activist of BJP's youth wing Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) in 1987. He then gradually rose in the BJYM hierarchy, holding various posts including that of ward secretary, taluka secretary, state secretary, vice-president, and general secretary.[10] He came into limelight for his excellent management when he was the election campaign manager for Lal Krishna Advani in Gandhinagar during the 1991 Lok Sabha elections.[1][17]

In 1995, BJP formed its first government in Gujarat, with Keshubhai Patel as the Chief Minister. At that time, BJP's main rival Indian National Congress was highly influential in rural Gujarat. Modi and Shah worked together to decimate Congress in the rural areas. Their strategy was to find the second most influential leader in every village, and get him or her to join BJP. They created a network of 8,000 influential rural leaders who had lost elections to the pradhan (village chief) post in various villages.[10]

Modi and Shah used the same strategy to reduce Congress' influence over the state's powerful co-operatives, which play an important role in the state's economy. In 1999, Shah was elected as the president of Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank (ADCB), the biggest cooperative bank in India. In Gujarat, such elections had traditionally been won on the 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 collapsing, having accumulated losses of 36 crore. Shah turned around the bank's fortune within a year's time: the next year, the bank registered a profit of 27 crore. By 2014, the bank's profit had increased to around 250 crore.[10] Shah also ensured that 11 of the Bank's 22 directors were BJP loyalists.[14]

Modi and Shah also sought to reduce the Congress hold over sports bodies in the state.[10] Shah served as the president of Gujarat State Chess Association.[16] In 2009, he became the vice-president of the cash-rich Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA), when Narendra Modi served as its president.[14] 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 which finances small and medium-scale enterprises. After Shankersinh Vaghela and some other leaders complained about Modi's growing clout 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 informer in Gujarat.[14]

In 1997, Modi lobbied to get Shah a BJP ticket for the Gujarat Legislative Assembly by-election in Sarkhej.[18] Shah became an MLA in February 1997 after winning the by-election.[19] He retained his seat in the 1998 Assembly elections.[20]

Gujarat's minister

In October 2001, BJP replaced Keshubhai Patel with Narendra Modi as the chief minister of Gujarat, following allegations of inefficient administration. Over the next few years, Modi and Shah gradually sidelined their political rivals.[14]

Amit Shah contested the 2002 Assembly election from the Sarkhej constituency in Ahmedabad. He won by the highest margin among all candidates: 158,036 votes. In the 2007 Assembly election, he won from Sarkhej again, improving his margin of victory.[16]

During Narendra Modi's twelve-year tenure as the Gujarat CM, Shah emerged as one of the most powerful leaders in Gujarat. After winning the 2002 elections, he became the youngest minister in the Modi government, and was given multiple portfolios.[1] At one time, he held 12 portfolios: Home, Law and Justice, Prison, Border Security, Civil Defence, Excise, Transport, Prohibition, Home Guards, Gram Rakshak Dal, Police Housing, and Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs.[14]

In 2004, the Congress-led Central Government announced its intention to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, calling it regressive. Amit Shah piloted the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime (Amendment) Bill through Gujarat state assembly amid an opposition walk-out.[21]

Shah also played an important role in convincing the Narendra Modi government to pass the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, which made religious conversions difficult in Hindu-majority Gujarat. His opponents argued that the Act went against the rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, but Shah defended the bill, calling it a measure against forced conversions. His efforts in getting the bill passed impressed the senior leadership of RSS.[10]

Police encounter cases

In 2010, Amit Shah was accused of having orchestrated the extrajudicial killings of criminal [22] Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kauser Bi and his criminal associate Tulsiram Prajapati. According to the CBI, Sohrabuddin had been harassing some marble traders of Rajasthan, by demanding hefty protection money. CBI claimed that two of these marble traders paid Amit Shah to eliminate Sohrabuddin. Amit Shah, along with the police officers DIG DG Vanzara and SP Rajkumar Pandian, allegedly hatched a plan to kill Sohrabuddin. In 2004, DCP Abhay Chudasama pressured Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram to fire at the office of two builder brothers - Raman Patel and Dashrath Patel.[23] This was done so that a fresh criminal case could be registered against Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram. The next year, the police picked up Sohrabuddin, Kausar Bi and Tulsiram, and took them to a farmhouse near Ahmedabad. Sohrabuddin was killed in a staged attack, with Vanzara claiming that he was a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative. Kausar Bi was also killed and cremated for being a witness. Tulsiram was initially let off, as he was an informer of Vanzara. He was eliminated later, after Sohrabuddin's death was exposed as an extrajudicial killing by a journalist. CBI claimed that Amit Shah had transferred Vanzara to various places in order to facilitate these killings.[24][25]

Vanzara and several other officers were arrested in the case. As proof of Amit Shah's involvement in the crimes, the CBI presented phone call records, which showed that Shah had been in touch with the accused police officers when the victims were in their illegal custody. It also presented videotapes of Patel brothers' conversations with two of Amit Shah's associates at Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank (ADCB). In the tape, ADCB Director Yashpal Chudasama and its Chairman Ajay Patel can be seen asking the brothers not to involve Amit Shah's name in the case. Yashpal Chudasama is the brother of the accused police officer Abhay Chudasama. According to CBI, Abhay used to run an extortion racket, with Sohrabuddin as his henchman.[26] The Patel brothers, who had several criminal cases against them, also spoke against Amit Shah. They claimed that the police had falsely implicated them into various cases between 2001-2005 in order to extort money from them. They also claimed that Vanzara made them talk to Amit Shah over phone, and Amit Shah threatened them into giving a statement against Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram. They further stated that, in 2006, Ajay Patel and Abhay Chudasama called them again on behalf of Amit Shah, asking them to give certain statements to CBI.[27]

Shah dismissed all the accusations against him as politically motivated. He pointed out that during his tenure as the Home Minister, Gujarat was one of the states with minimum number of police encounters in the country. He stated that he kept in touch with the police officers on the phone in the normal course of his duties as the home minister.[28] He accused the Congress of misusing CBI, and claimed that only the encounter cases in Gujarat were being scrutinised when the rest of the country had witnessed around 1500 encounters during the same period.[29] He said that if CBI had any solid evidence against him, it would have been able to frame charges against him.[14] In 2010, Police Commissioner Geeta Johri, who first investigated the case, claimed that CBI was pressurizing her to falsely implicate Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin case.[30]

DG Vanzara was also accused in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, but the CBI gave Amit Shah a clean sheet in the case.[31]

Arrest and exile

Amit Shah was arrested on 25 July 2010 in connection with the Sohrabuddin case. He was charged with the murder, extortion, and kidnapping among other charges. At one time, Shah was considered as one of the main contenders for the Gujarat Chief Minister's post. However, his political career was hurt by the arrest. Many leaders in the Gujarat government distanced themselves from him. His fellow ministers considered him as an autocratic person, who did not have good relations with his colleagues.[16]

When Shah applied for bail, the CBI raised concerns that he would use his political power to prevent justice from taking its course.[14] The Gujarat High Court granted him bail three months after his arrest, on Friday, 29 October 2010. However, the next day, when the courts were closed, Justice Aftab Alam took a petition at his residence to bar him from entering Gujarat.[10] Shah was thus forcibly exiled from the state from 2010 to 2012.[14] He and his wife moved to a room in Gujarat Bhavan, Delhi.[10] Later, the Supreme Court canceled his bail on a CBI plea. In September 2012, the Supreme Court granted him bail, and allowed him to return to Gujarat. He then contested and won the 2012 Assembly election from Naranpura constituency (the Sarkhej constituency had ceased to exist after delimitation).[16]

Other controversies

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. Additional DGP R. B. Sreekumar, who gave evidence to the Nanavati-Shah commission, was allegedly denied promotion. Rahul Sharma, who handed over phone records of police officers and politicians to the Commission, was charged with violating the Official Secrets Act. Additional DGP Kuldeep Sharma alleged that he had been moved from the police department to Gujarat State Sheep and Wool Development Corporation, after he accused Shah of taking a bribe of Rs 2.5 crore to bail out a conman who fraudulently withdrew Rs 1,600 crore from the Madhavpura Mercantile Cooperative Bank. Kuldeep Sharma was later made advisor to the central home ministry by the Congress government. His brother Pradeep Sharma was imprisoned in Gujarat from 2010 to 2011 on corruption charges. The brothers claim that the Gujarat Government was harassing them.[14] Shah has also been accused of manipulating the electoral constituency delimitation exercise in Gujarat to favour BJP.[18]


In 2013, Amit 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 Amit Shah and police officer GL Singhal. The tapes had been submitted to the CBI in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter 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). Both Singhal and Shah repeatedly refer to a higher authority as Saheb, believed to be the Chief Minister Narendra Modi.[32] Shah denied all the accusations against him, calling them political propaganda by his opponents.[14] BJP's political opponents demanded a probe in this 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 that it would violate her privacy.[33]

Rise in national politics

After Narendra Modi became the Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP, Shah's influence also increased in the party. The two have been accused of sidelining other BJP leaders such as Lal Krishna Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Murli Manohar Joshi and Jaswant Singh.[14] By this time, Shah had gained recognition as an excellent election campaign manager, and had been dubbed a "modern-day Chanakya and master strategist".[34] Shah was appointed as a BJP general secretary, and was given charge of Uttar Pradesh (UP). He was chosen not by Modi, but by Rajnath Singh, who had been impressed by the skills that Shah displayed in wresting control of various Congress-controlled organizations in Gujarat.[10] The decision did not go down well with many in the party, 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.[35]

Uttar Pradesh general elections

Amit Shah's political career, which had declined after his arrest in 2010, revived after BJP's victory in the 2014 general election. In UP, where Shah was the in-charge, BJP and its allies won 73 out of 80 seats. Shah had been made in charge of BJP's UP campaigning on 12 June 2013, less than a year before the elections.[14] Since February 2012, Shah had spent considerable time in UP, trying to understand the reasons for the Samajwadi Party's winning performance in the 2012 UP Assembly elections. Shah realised that the voters were dissatisfied with the Samajwadi Party, which he believed had failed to keep its election promises after the win. He also took advantage of the OBC voters' displeasure with the UP government's decision to create 4.5% reservation for the minorities within the 27% OBC quota in government jobs and education.[14]

Shah personally oversaw the candidate selection, emphasizing on the candidate's local clout and winning potential as the only criteria for selection, as opposed to the candidate's party loyalty or ideology. His team estimated that only 35% of the BJP's traditional supporters had actually voted in the UP elections. Therefore, he focused on door-to-door campaigning at the booth-level. He set up a 7-to-10 member management committee for each of the 140,000 voting booths in the state. For each booth, his team collated lists of voters and reached out to them.[14] Shah's team used 450 GPS-enabled mobile vans ("video raths") to reach out to the masses in remote areas, where media reach was negligible.[36] Shah personally covered 76 out of 80 Lok Sabha constituencies. He also insisted on Modi contesting election from Varanasi.[37]

Shah convinced Modi to utilize RSS volunteers for grassroots campaigning, which proved highly beneficial for BJP.[37] Although RSS officially did not get involved in electioneering, Shah used its volunteers to mobilize and monitor the campaigners. For example, the RSS volunteers would cross-check a BJP worker's claims of having targeted a given number of households.[14] Shah also helped organize "mega rallies" for Modi. Like other major political parties, BJP provisioned one van per village to transport people to the rally venue. However, unlike others, Shah decided that BJP would not provide money for hiring these vehicles. Instead, he declared that the party workers organizing the transportation would be made the leaders of the BJP units in their respective villages. This strategy ensured that a number of local village leaders developed a stake in Modi's victory.[10]

Critics accused Amit Shah of trying to polarize the UP voters along the religious lines. While visiting Ayodhya for a meeting with the party's local committee, he raised the Ram Janmabhoomi temple issue (see Ayodhya dispute). BJP fielded three candidates accused of inciting violence during the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. These were seen as attempts to target the party's Hindu nationalist base.[14] An FIR was registered against Shah for a speech in Muzaffarnagar, where he urged the voters to seek "revenge" through their votes.[18] He also took advantage of Shia Muslim antipathy towards Sunni Muslims in Lucknow.[38]

Shah also played an important role in BJP's election campaigning strategy outside Uttar Pradesh. He focused on building Modi's image as a strong leader. At times, he opposed even Modi on several strategic campaigning issues. For example, when Modi praised his opponent and prospective post-poll ally Mamata Banerjee, Shah insisted that BJP must not divert from the "Modi-versus-all" tactic.[37] Shah was also responsible for forging BJP's alliances with regional parties like Pattali Makkal Katchi.[18]

BJP President

In July 2014, BJP's Central Parliamentary Board unanimously approved Amit Shah's appointment as president of the party.[39] He was reelected BJP President unanimously on 24 January 2016.[40]

After becoming party president, Shah started an aggressive membership drive and by March 2015 BJP claimed 100 million members.[41][42]

Under his leadership during 2014-16, BJP achieved success in Legislative Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand and Assam, but lost the elections in Delhi and Bihar.[43]

Shah also spearheaded campaigning in the 2017 assembly elections, which gave BJP resounding success in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, meaning the party won its greatest run in percentage terms in recent state assembly elections: 325 seats out of 403.[44][45] BJP made some headway into Manipur.[46] Under his stewardship, the BJP has also won 2017 Gujarat Legislative Assembly polls for a record six times and wrested power from the INC during the 2017 Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly polls. In March 2018, BJP won first time in the left-ruled northeastern state of Tripura with a two-thirds majority. BJP also made gains in Nagaland and Meghalaya and formed government in both states with its allies.

In 2018, Shah said millions of "illegal infiltrators" have entered the country like "termites" and should be "uprooted": "Should they be thrown out or not? Millions of infiltrators have entered our country and are eating the country like termites. Should we not uproot them?"[47]

Amit Shah led BJP to victory in the 2019 Indian general election, becoming the most successful BJP President ever, in the process.[8] During the election campaign, he visited 312 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies, holding 18 road shows, 161 public meetings, and over 1,500 BJP meetings.[48]

He is often referred to as a modern-day Chanakya,[49] who had skillfully replaced the Nanda dynasty by the young Chandragupta Maurya. He himself is an admirer of Chanakya. Responding to the questions from a reporter 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 favourite books, which he studied when he was in prison.[50]

Home minister

Shah took oath as Cabinet Minister on 30 May 2019. He took office as Minister of Home Affairs on 1 June 2019.[51] On 5 August 2019, Shah moved resolution to scrap Article 370 in the Rajya Sabha.,[52] and also reorganize the state with Jammu and Kashmir serving as one of the union territory and Ladakh region separated out as a separate union territory.[53]

Electoral record

Since 1989, Shah has fought 28 elections to various local bodies. As of 2019, he has never lost an election.

Election Year Constituency Result Votes % Votes Source
Gujarat Legislative Assembly (by-election) 1997 Sarkhej Won 76,839 56.10% [54]
Gujarat Legislative Assembly 1998 Sarkhej Won 193,373 69.81% [20]
Gujarat Legislative Assembly 2002 Sarkhej Won 288,327 66.98% [55]
Gujarat Legislative Assembly 2007 Sarkhej Won 407,659 68.00% [56]
Gujarat Legislative Assembly 2012 Naranpura Won 103,988 69.19% [57]
General Election 2019 Gandhinagar Won 888,210 69.76%

Personal life

Amit 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.[10][14] People close to Shah have described him as someone who does not like to socialize much.[58] He has six sisters, two of whom live abroad in Chicago.[59][60] In September 2019, he was successfully operated for lipoma at the backside of neck under local anaesthesia. After this minor surgery, he was discharged.[61]


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Lok Sabha
Preceded by
L. K. Advani
Member of Parliament
for Gandhinagar

2019 – Present
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Rajnath Singh
Minister of Home Affairs
30 May 2019 – Present
Party political offices
Preceded by
Rajnath Singh
President of the Bharatiya Janata Party
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