Amit Shah is new Minister of Home Affairs: When Rajnath Singh took oath of office and secrecy second after Narendra Modi during the swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt on Thursday, many believed that he would continue to be the Home Minister in Modi Government 2.0. BJP president Amit Shah was third to take oath.
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However, the portfolios released for Modi’s cabinet colleagues on Friday afternoon revealed a new peking order. It was clear that Amit Shah and not Rajnath will be the second in command. Prime Minister Narendra Modi picked his ‘Man Friday’ Amit Shah as Home Minister and handed over the Defence Ministry to Rajnath Singh. In the last five years, Amit Shah has emerged as the second most powerful person in the country after PM Modi and it is this perception which the Gandhinagar MP would want to strengthen during his stint as the Home Minister.
Amit Shah, who has previous experience of handling the Home Ministry as well as several other portfolios at the state level, is stepping into a completely different ball game altogether. While the new role will test his administrative acumen, the move also appears to be a well though strategy by the party to fulfill the many promises it has made in its manifesto. Moreover, to have a powerful minister at the helm of MHA also gives the BJP an opportunity to work towards its longstanding agenda.
As the new Home Minister, Amit Shah has his task cut out. From controversial issues like Article 35A, 370, National Register of Citizens (NRC), Uniform Civil Code to sensitive ones like Ram Mandir, Naxalism and internal law and order – Amit Shah would be required to use all his leadership skills and political acumen to address these. The Bharatiya Janata Party, in its election manifesto, also promised to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution. It also promised to annul Article 35A. Going by his repeated remarks during campaigning for Lok Sabha election 2019, Amit Shah is likely to get going to fulfil the promises made in the manifesto.
“We believe that Article 35A is an obstacle in the development of the state. We will take all steps to ensure a safe and peaceful environment for all residents of the state. We will make all efforts to ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits and we will provide financial assistance for the resettlement of refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) and Chhamb,” BJP’s ‘Sankalp Patra’ states.
Article 370 grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir and limits Parliament’s power to make laws concerning the state. On the other hand, Article 35A empowers the state assembly to define ‘permanent residents’ for bestowing special rights and privileges to them. Considering the sensitivity of both the issues, Amit Shah is expected to move cautiously but he will certainly make a move.
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Amit Shah has also been vocal about adoption of NRC across the country after Assam to identify illegal immigrants. The Supreme Court-monitored NRC in Assam had triggered a huge controversy after over 40 lakh people were excluded from the draft register. The final NRC is likely to be published in July this year.
The long-pending contentious dispute of Ayodhya Ram-Janmabhoomi-Babri masjid could also see some settlement under Amit Shah. The case is currently in the Supreme Court which has ordered a mediation to arrive at a permanent solution to the political and religious sensitive issue. The BJP has fought past elections keeping the Ram mandir issue on top of its priority, however, in 2019 Lok Sabha election the matter hardly featured in the campaign. The saffron party will now want it to be resolved once and for all.
Apart from these major challenges, country’s internal law and order, terrorism and Naxalism are other headache-inducing issues that he would be faced with. Naxal activities witnessed a sudden surge during the last few months of the previous Modi government particularly in the state of Chhattisgarh. Amit Shah would be required not only weed out the rebel forces from within the country but also prevent them from regrouping.