Amit Shah is known to be a rabble-rouser and makes headlines when he speaks. However, one clarification was enough to subdue a few protesters, leading one to believe that the home minister knows how to play it smart
There was a recent report in one of the news platforms that was headlined to the effect "Amit Shah and BJP preparing for 2024 while Cong still reeling from 2014".
At first glance, the story smacked off exaggeration, as 2024 is so far away and nobody knows what will transpire interregnum.
Yet, in a couple of days, one did get a glimpse of what Amit Shah and BJP are politically capable of. It showed that the headline was not far-fetched and why the BJP and its president (who also happens to be the country's home minister) seem invincible now.
A few days ago, Amit Shah virtually set the cat among the pigeons by suggesting that Hindi can be a unifying language for the entire country. This was indeed a contentious statement to make in a nation where language is an emotive issue and where states are decidedly set up on linguistic lines.
There was a major political kerfuffle as opinions poured forth against the home minister's suggestion. And not just the opposition parties, even BJP's own unit in Karnataka felt uncomfortable with the idea, which was widely seen as a sly-handed plan to impose Hindi across states that did not speak it.
Of course, in the state of Tamil Nadu, where Tamil is an issue of life and death, Shah's words triggered a tsunami of protests. And all manner of parties began to rally together against the move "to impose Hindi through the backdoor". The main opposition party in the state, the DMK, took the lead and announced a major demonstration to protest the announcement.
Elsewhere, too, Shah's opinion was seen as polarising. In West Bengal, it was felt that BJP's political gambit on Hindi may backfire on the party's prospects in the state.
Also, using the language issue, the opposition parties across the spectrum were finding a rallying point to close ranks amongst themselves --- lack of unity among them was one of the main factors behind the BJP’s triumph in the general elections.
Anyway, a storm could be seen to clearly brewing against the BJP and Shah's opinion.
In general, given his image as a strongarm tactician and rabble-rouser, many people felt that Shah would stick to his guns and the whole matter would further fester.
But in a quick re-think of whatever strategy that the party may have had, Shah clarified he never asked for imposing Hindi over other languages but proposed that other than one’s mother tongue, there should be a common second language and that should be Hindi.
"I myself come from a non-Hindi state of Gujarat. If some people want to do politics, it’s their choice,” he added.
The second part of his statement was a political masterstroke as everyone knows that Gujaratis zealously take huge pride in their own language. When Shah used this personal card, his statement acquired an imminent ring of truth and believability.
Suddenly, the original statement made on Hindi divas looked all diluted.
And therein lies Amit Shah's political smarts. As a matter of fact, the BJP has made a climb down in the face of concerted protests. But in a show of tactical nous, Shah has made it seem like a pretty straight forward exchange on a policy matter.
It also made clear that Shah was not the one to sit on his high horse if BJP's political prospects were getting hurt.
Further, he did not stop with the clarification. He got the Tamil Nadu Governor to speak to DMK's MK Stalin and the DMK quickly cancelled its plan for the protest demonstration.
Shah had merely clarified on his stand, the DMK could still have gone ahead with its protest and secured a few political brownie points. And Tamil Nadu is a state that goes to polls in a year and a half’s time.
But Shah understood the situation and quickly moved to stop the DMK on its tracks. The Governor spoke to Stalin only at Shah's behest. Nobody knows what transpired at the meeting between the two, but Stalin giving up the plan to protest has to be a small political win for the BJP and Shah.
Worryingly for the opposition parties, it underscores the fact that Shah and his team are not ready to rest on their winning laurels.
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Last Updated 19, Sep 2019, 6:56 PM