From CAB to SPG, how the Winter Session reinforces Amit Shah’s leadership

When Amit Shah rose to table the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 in the Lok Sabha, and subsequently the Rajya Sabha, this week, few would have remembered that the home minister is just a first-term Lok Sabha member.

And that is because the Bharatiya Janata Party president, who proved himself as an organiser-par-excellence in Narendra Modi’s first term, delivering successive electoral wins, has, in quick time, established himself as the government’s key architect of policy and legislations. His power as the number 2 in the Modi dispensation is fairly well-known (even though in the official hierarchy, defence minister Rajnath Singh is second to Prime Minister Narendra Modi).

But it is his emergence as a parliamentarian that was first apparent in the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha. Shah introduced and piloted all major legislations of the government – of empowering the National Investigation Agency that is mandated to probe terror, widening the scope of the anti-terror law Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act, and most significantly, effectively rendering Article 370 null and reorganising Jammu and Kashmir by dividing it into two union territories.

In the winter session, the home minister shepherded an amendment which limited the scope of the Special Protection Group to only guarding the serving Prime Minister and his family, and former PMs and their families for five years after they demit office.

But it was the amendment to fast-track citizenship to non-Muslims from three Muslim-majority countries in the neighbourhood that reestablished Shah’s stature as the government’s key leader in the House. By aggressively taking on the Opposition, arguing that the amendment was required on humane grounds to give legitimacy to the status of religious minorities fleeing persecution in neighbouring countries, positioning it as the unfinished business of Partition, and ensuring that the government was smoothly able to push it through in the Rajya Sabha where it lacked a majority, Shah has come across as both ideologically committed to his party’s core agenda and tactician who has built skills to ensure numbers in the house.

Shah’s moves, however, have been controversial. In Kashmir, while the government has claimed that the situation is normal, political leaders continue to be detained, and connectivity and mobility is restricted. The international community has spoken of the need to restore rights and normalcy in the Valley. The home minister’s push for changes to the Citizenship Act has created unrest in the Northeast, with Assam and Tripura in particular witnessing continued protests and turmoil.

While Shah was a long-time minister in the Gujarat government, he entered Parliament via the Rajya Sabha only in the final lap of Modi’s first term in 2017. BJP leaders often acknowledge that there were only two gaps in the home minister’s political experience – of policymaking in the central government and of parliamentary practice.

With his active role over the year, Shah has filled those two gaps in his portfolio. And with it, he has once again shown his indispensability and power in the new BJP regime.

Source : Hindustan Times


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