‘He Likes Scaring People’: How Modi’s Right-hand Man, Amit Shah, Runs India

One of Shah’s key roles is to be the prime minister’s shield.

Atul Dev in The Guardian: Today, Amit Shah isn’t home minister for Gujarat, but all of India. From the heart of power in Delhi, he is in charge of domestic policy, commands the capital city’s police force, and oversees the Indian state’s intelligence apparatus. He is, simply put, the second-most powerful man in the country. With the BJP poised to win the current general election, he is all but certain to remain so for at least the next five years. For Modi, he is what Dick Cheney and Karl Rove were for George W Bush – the muscle as well as the brain – rolled into one. Over the past decade, he has been the key architect in remaking India according to the BJP’s Hindu nationalist ideology.

A defining feature of life in India today is the suffocating atmosphere of menace and threat to critics of the government. Shah is the face and embodiment of this fear, which lurks everywhere, from the newsrooms to the courtrooms, and which inspires a sense of alarm that is bigger than the sum of the facts and anecdotes that can be amassed to illustrate it. Suspended in the margins between what is known and what can be said, no individual story is more illustrative of contemporary India than that of Amit Shah.

Amit Shah takes care of the details. He has the vast apparatus of the state at his disposal; an army of party workers await his orders amid the constant cycle of local, regional and national elections; he is a shrewd operator, always ready to weaken the opposition by forging new alliances and luring candidates away from other parties; he keeps tabs on the gossip. Last year, a corporate lobbyist in Delhi told me a story: a cabinet minister in the Modi government had pocketed a small part of the donation a businessman had made to the party, thinking no one would find out, only to get a call from Shah, who had run into the businessman at the Delhi airport and tallied the figure. Shah apparently told the minister to deposit the rest of the amount in the party fund. I could never confirm this story, but whatever its truth, it captures how Indians view the home minister. “Shah has something like the Eye of Sauron – he sees all,” said the lobbyist, laughing at the hapless minister.

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