Amit Shah, who scripted BJP's stunning victory in key Uttar Pradesh in Lok Sabha elections, was today rewarded by being appointed the party President, reflecting the total grip of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the ruling dispensation.
50-year-old Shah, the closest and controversial aide of Modi, was unanimously appointed to the top post in BJP at a brief business-like meeting of its Parliamentary Board, the party's highest decision-making forum, where incumbent Rajnath Singh resigned after 18 months at the helm.
The former Minister of State for Home in Gujarat, who faces charges in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter killing case, is largely credited with BJP's stunning performance in UP where it got 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats.
The meeting was attended among others by Modi, senior leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, M Venkaiah Naidu, Nitin Gadkari and Sushma Swaraj.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who had to table the pre-Budget Economic Survey in Lok Sabha, joined the press conference where the announcement of Shah as BJP chief was made by Singh before all these leaders.
"From now on, Amit Shah will be the president of BJP and will lead the party. His appointment was approved unanimously," Singh said flanked by Modi and other leaders.
Shortly after the announcement, Modi and Singh offered sweets to Shah while other leaders including Advani, Joshi, Swaraj and Jaitley gave him bouquets. Singh also garlanded Shah.
As reporters started asking questions, Shah replied "I will speak later" bringing the brief ceremony to a close.
Asked about both Modi and Shah hailing from Gujarat being put in charge of the government and the party, Singh said in a big party like BJP decisions like this cannot be viewed from the prism of region, religion and caste.
Singh parried questions on whether the government will have a relook at the pending case against Shah.
Modi made no comments at the function but later said in a tweet, "My best wishes to Amit Shah on becoming the BJP President. I am sure that under his leadership, the party will expand and strengthen further."
"Amit Bhai started his journey as an ordinary Karyakarta (worker) and has repeatedly proved himself through tireless hardwork and determination," he said.
Shah takes over from Singh who was appointed party president after the exit of Nitin Gadkari in controversial circumstances.
"I took over as the BJP President with a heavy heart. I felt helpless because of baseless allegations levelled against Nitin Gadkari. Since the Prime Minister has given me the responsibility of the Home Ministry...
"I convened the meeting of the Central Parliamentary Board and as per BJP tradition I tendered my resignation (as party chief). The Parliamentary Board accepted my resignation and unanimously decided to appoint Amit Shah as the President of BJP," Singh said.
Singh had recently announced that he will relinquish his BJP role in keeping with the party's "one-man, one-post" principle. "I have decided to quit and am handing over the charge to an able and competent person," he said.
"Shah is full of imaginative ideas and is good at organisational skills. As in charge of UP during Lok Sabha polls, he got roaring success. BJP had never been so successful in its history in UP. That is why we decided to hand over this responsibility to Shah," Singh said.
"I hope he will help increase the stature of the party further in the country's politics," he said.
He also credited former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani for making the Indian polity from unipolar to bipolar.
Singh said that under Modi's leadership, the party got a thumping majority in the Lok Sabha elections, thus becoming the single largest party to get majority on its own after nearly 30 years.
BJP is set for major organisational changes following its victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls as many of its senior leaders have become part of the Modi government.
The party's reorganisation will come ahead of assembly elections in states like Maharashtra, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand later this year and early next year.
The RSS, BJP's ideological fountainhead, is also keen that the party should not be weakened after government formation.
It had already deputed two of its key leaders -- Ram Madhav and Shiv Prakash -- to work for BJP and new roles for both of them will be assigned by the new party chief. The two are likely to get key roles in the revamped party set-up with Madhav likely to be the new party general secretary.
The announcement of Shah's name as BJP President came after RSS' nod for the same.
Singh later told reporters that Shah will be more successful than him as the party president.
"I have full confidence that Amit Shah through his organisational and managerial skills, will be successful in making BJP, which has emerged as the largest political party in the country, reach bigger heights. I believe that Shah will be more successful than me," he said.
Shah later met party leaders and workers at the BJP headquarters where hordes of party workers garlanded him and offered bouquets. They also burst crackers and distributed sweets, celebrating Shah's elevation.
Senior BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi said the party has taken a correct decision by appointing Shah as its president.
"Since Rajnath Singh became the Home Minister, BJP had been looking for a president. I want to congratulate Amit Shah on behalf of all the party workers.
'Heading an Extortion Syndicate'
Accused of fake encounters involving Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Tulsiram Prajapati among others, Shah spent three months in the Sabarmati jail before he secured bail in 2010.
The Supreme Court had banned Shah from Gujarat in 2010 amid concerns that he would intimidate witnesses. The case was transferred to Mumbai in 2012.
In 2011, the CBI had alleged that Amit Shah, as a former Gujarat minister, was heading an extortion syndicate culminating in the fake encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife.
The CBI counsel had cited the purported statements of several real estate owners and businessmen to a bench of the Supreme Court, asserting that they had had testified that the former Gujarat minister of state for home had let loose a reign of terror by engaging top police officials like D G Vanzara to extort money by threatening to kill them in fake encounters.
"The nation is absolutely mystified that BJP has found no better person and fallen back on a murder accused on bail. Do they have limited talent," Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters.
Singhvi said that although Congress is "not normally interested, nor comments" on internal appointments of other parties, he was reacting on this issue as it was "unprecedented" for a party in power to make an appointment of such a person.
Singhvi said he was reacting on the basis of "objective facts" and remarked that Shah could not go to his native state of Gujarat between 2010 and 2012 because of his "externment".
"This reflects their frustration," BJP's media cell in-charge Shrikant Sharma responded to Singhvi's charge.
Sharma said Congress, when in power, had "misused" investigating agencies and levelled allegations against Shah "which it has been unable to prove in court of law".
"Since it lost power, Congress has been only levelling allegations against BJP. They should look inwards and conduct an introspection into the reasons of defeat and wake up its sleeping leaders," he said.
With PTI inputs