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06 December 2012 National Gujarat Assembly Elections

Poll Pointers

Former deputy chief minister and senior Congress leader Narhari Amin joins the BJP in the presence of chief minister Narendra Modi.

Former deputy chief minister and senior Congress leader Narhari Amin, who had quit the party after being denied a ticket, joined the BJP on Thursday in the presence of chief minister Narendra Modi.

Soon after, Amin said that in these polls, defeat stared the Congress in the face, and that it was time to start working for its rout in 2014.  "His joining the BJP will strengthen the party and spell total rout for the Congress,” chimed in the chief minister.

Amin, who had a string of defeats in successive Assembly poll encounters over the years, found himself out in the cold after the Congress vigorously implemented the criteria of not giving tickets to candidates who had lost two successive elections.

Last elections, Amin had contested from Matar constituency in central Gujarat and lost to his BJP rival. This time over, he wanted a ticket from the state capital but found himself left out in the cold.

Immediately after his elimination, the former deputy chief minister had opened a channel of communication with the BJP and is reported to have been offered the Sabarmati seat in Ahmedabad but he took too long making up his mind and missed the bus.

Left with little option except the best of a bad bargain, Amin has joined the ruling party in the state. For Modi, the switch has considerable value in terms of his psychological warfare with the Congress in the run up to the polls but of little use thereafter.

In practical terms Amin had become a poll liability for the Congress. Except for a by-election in 2001, his last election victory was 22 years ago. In 1990, contesting as a Janata Dal candidate, he had defeated Natvarlal Patel of the BJP by over 9000 votes to become a minister in a Janata Dal-BJP coalition government headed by Chimanbhai Patel. However with the fall of the V.P. Singh government in Delhi, after BJP withdrew support, Chiman Patel did away with his coalition partner, turning his party into a regional outfit, Janata Dal (Gujarat) and opting for outside support of the Congress to retain power in the state. Subsequently he merged his party into the national entity and Gujarat became a Congress ruled state.

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Amin acquired extra-ordinary clout during Patel’s reign. In fact he was to Chiman Patel what Amit Shah is to Modi. After Patel’s death, Amin’s clout waned considerably though he managed to retain his position in the Chabbildas Mehta government until the party lost at the hustings in 1995 ushering in the first BJP standalone government in the state headed by Keshubhai Patel.

In the 1995 and 1998 Vidhan Sabha elections Amin lost to Yatin Oza of the BJP, both times by a margin of about 20,000 votes. Between the two elections Shankersinh Vaghela’s rebellion led first to the unseating of Keshubhai Patel, his replacement by Suresh Mehta, the banishment of party general secretary Narendra Modi, the pulling down of the BJP government, its displacement by Shankersinh Vaghela’s government with Congress support, Vidhan Sabha elections and the return of Patel as chief minister in 1998.

Ironically it was Narhari Amin’s victory in a by-election in September 2001 (the BJP lost two of those three seats) that provided ammunition to Patel’s detractors and lead to his replacement by Modi as chief minister just about a month later. In a manner of saying, Amin contributed, albeit indirectly in Modi’s accession to power and he has today returned the favour by absorbing him in his set up.

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Modi, however has little use for the perennial loser beyond the immediate propaganda value. In fact Amin may well be forced to play second fiddle to Modi’s closest aide, Amit Shah, a prospect that he will not relish very much.

Interestingly, it was Shah who divested Amin of his crown jewel, the Gujarat Cricket Association, which provided him with a fiefdom and unprecedented clout in the cricketing affairs of the country. Shah used everything at his command to engineer the defeat of Amin and his team in the Gujarat Cricket Association and gifted it to chief minister Modi who is now its president. Shah repeated the feat recently ensuring complete control of the state cricket body where he is the vice-president. Thus Amin’s position within the BJP is sure to entail servility to Shah.

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