The other Amit Shah: Former mayor, now a candidate, leads BJP charge in Ahmedabad

The Indian Express | 5 days ago | 25-11-2022 | 10:35 pm

The other Amit Shah: Former mayor, now a candidate, leads BJP charge in Ahmedabad

MOST BJP workers accompanying Amit Popatlal Shah, 63, the former mayor of Ahmedabad, struggle to match his energy and fast pace of walking, as the current chief of the Ahmedabad BJP unit hits the campaign trail across the Ellisbridge Assembly constituency. Shah is adamant the AAP won’t make a dent at any of Ahmedabad city’s 16 Assembly seats. He is also confident of personally winning by over 80,000 votes. Once elected, he has vowed to resolve all disputes related to the Disturbed Areas Act in the Paldi area of his constituency.At a Navrangpura rally on November 23, the second of the day for Shah in which he and his entourage covered nearly four kilometres on foot across residential societies as part of his pre-poll outreach, the public reception was mixed, often lukewarm. At times, Shah could be seen waving at empty balconies, with intrigued shopkeepers and bystanders reluctantly waving back, that too, intermittently.At New Asmita Apartment, past the Commerce Six Roads Metro station, a resident angrily shooed away Shah and his entourage of BJP workers and dhol players, making evident his displeasure with the cacophony they were making. “Perhaps someone is sick at their home, so they are getting disturbed by the noise,” added a BJP worker sheepishly, even as Shah quickly apologised and made a U-turn from the society.“Before elections, it is important to make oneself visible among the public. I’m walking 18,000 steps every day and even after the election, I’ll keep my jan sampark going on Sundays. We have committed voters and I feel it’s necessary to meet them individually at their homes to build the connection. You see, we’re distributing pamphlets, because voters should know about my candidature, and that I had visited their homes. As a corporator, I would make it a point to share booklets of the work I have got done through the year, every year. The public should know what their elected representative is doing for them,” Shah told The Indian Express.At Dev Apartments, sexagenarian Arunaben Shah, along with other ladies, accost Shah as soon as he enters the society with his team. “Men often urinate on the side of the road opposite our society gate. We had also complained to Rakeshbhai (Shah, incumbent Ellisbridge BJP MLA), but nothing was done.” Shah assured them he will alert civic body officials to have a public toilet set up in the vicinity.A lawyer by qualification who never practised, he was accompanied by his family—daughter and wife—at the rally. A party loyalist, he has been a councillor at AMC for five consecutive terms, holding various posts—octroi chairman, water supply vice-chairman, member of the AMC standing committee for five years during Congress rule in AMC, and Leader of the Opposition from 2000 to 2005.Shah, who was the mayor of Ahmedabad between 2005 and 2008, has a more popular namesake as the Union Home Minister sitting in New Delhi. He says the confusion over two people with the same name was short-lived. “Initially, there used to be some confusion. In 1995, when Amit (Anilchandra) Shah (the Home Minister) became the Gujarat State Financial Services (GSFC) chairman, company officials had once landed up at my place with flower bouquets. I was a councillor at the time, and I told them I’m not the person they were seeking. Thereafter, I never really encountered such confusion,” says Shah.Notably, Amit Shah the mayor was a deputy accountant with Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank, where Amit Shah the current Union Home Minister was chairman in 2005.On the campaign trail, the warmest welcomes are extended by residents who claim to be affiliated to the RSS, or to have known Shah from his mayoral days. Shyam Gopaldas Shah, a retiree with a precast concrete technology business, rushes out of his house as Shah’s rally passes by. He says, “We have been friends for decades, and I’ll definitely vote for him. BJP hi aani chahiye, aur kaun aayega? [BJP should win, who else can?]”With declared moveable and immovable assets totalling Rs 3.15 crores, Shah also faces a criminal case for attacking activist Medha Patkar in 2002 during the Narmada Bachao Andolan, whose trial is still ongoing before an Ahmedabad magistrate’s court. Along with Vinai Saxena—the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor (LG), Amit Thakar—the current BJP candidate from Vejalpur, and BJP leader Rohit Patel, Shah was charged with offences under IPC pertaining to unlawful assembly, rioting, voluntarily causing hurt and criminal intimidation. “She (Patkar) did not appear before the court for 10 years. Eventually, Magistrate bhi sharma gaye ki mayor aata hai par woh (Patkar) nahi aati hai, and exempted me from appearing before the court. Gujarat’s public wants Narmada water. Patkar opposed increasing the height of the dam. We had demonstrated against her. It was nothing wrong,” says Shah.Ellisbridge has been a prestige seat for the BJP, with PM Modi having aspired for the seat once. The party has maintained control over the seat since 1998. As the city BJP chief, Shah is also tasked with managing wins in all 16 Assembly constituencies within the city’s jurisdiction. He candidly says he is banking on the Hindu vote, and that the party is not canvassing in Muslim areas. In fact, Shah’s Navrangpura rally started from the Jain temple of Dada Saheb Na Pagla, and went via the Shri Siddheshwar Hanumanji Temple.“At Ellisbridge, the Congress has never won (the last non-BJP candidate to be elected was in 1995, an Independent), and our victory margin has only gone up over the years. I believe this year’s margin will be above 80,000. We have meticulously planned our ‘page samitis’ in Hindu areas. We have not gone to Muslim areas because we don’t get their votes, so we don’t even bother working for them. We will give a bada jhatka (huge jolt) to the Congress this time. AAP is not even in the picture,” said Shah.

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