On Amit Shah’s Elevation as the Next BJP President by Aseem Prakash

It seems Amit Shah will be named as the next President of the BJP. This apparently is to reward him for the BJP’s excellent performance in UP in the 2014 LS elections.

I have no problems if Amit Shah is elevated to this position. He seems like a capable person. Yet, I do have a problem of giving him credit for the BJP’s performance in UP.

Why so? This is a sort of problem we often discuss in the introductory class in Research Design and Causal Inference. The core issue is: How to assess the claim that an “intervention” (Amit Shah) has had a causal impact on the observed outcome (BJP’s performance in UP)? These sorts of questions are routinely examined in testing for the efficacy of new drugs. Unfortunately we cannot undertake field experiments/RCTs in the context of 2014 LS elections. We can, however, think of “matching” samples with the objective to compare the outcome in the “treated sample” with outcomes in the ones that were not treated.

Think of two states where the BJP performed quite poorly (in terms of number of seats) in the 2009 LS elections. Assume Amit Shah is assigned to oversee 2014 LS elections in State 1 while somebody else is assigned the same job in State 2. Think of two scenarios.

Scenario 1: The BJP’s performance in State 1 is vastly superior to its performance in State 2. Only in this situation can Amit Shah be given credit for BJP’s performance in State 1.

Scenario 2: The BJP has done equally well in both State 1 and State 2. Can Shah be given credit still? He cannot. Because the presence and absence of Shah does not correlate with the BJP’s performance across these states. One can even fit a regression and I’m quite sure that the Shah “dummy” will not be statistically significant in explaining the BJP’s performance.

BJP certainly did very well in UP (from 15/80 in 2009 to 71/80 in 2014). But it did very well in several other states where Amit Shah had no role, and where in the previous elections, it has done as dismally as it had in UP. Think of Haryana where the BJP did well (from 0/10 in 2009 to 7/10 in 2014). Think of Bihar. The BJP was the junior partner in the coalition with Nitish Kumar. Nitish walked out and the BJP essentially fought the 2014 LS alone with LJP as the junior partner. See the performance in Assam (from 4/14 in 2009 to 7/14 in 2014), Delhi (from 0/7 in 2009 to 7/7 in 2014) or J&K (from 0/6 in 2009 to 3/6 in 2014). Or, see the dramatic increase in vote share in West Bengal (from 6% in 2009 to 17% in 2014).

What contributed to the BJP’s performance across several states was the Modi wave. Roughly speaking, thanks to Modi, the BJP’s national vote share increased from 20% to 30%. This is what the Modi brand has done to the BJP.

It does not mean that Amit Shah should not be named as the BJP’s next President. He should be but for a different reason.

Given the context of Indian politics and Modi’s path to power, it will be dysfunctional to have two power centers; one controlling the government and the other controlling the party. If JP Nadda, Om Mathur or somebodyelse who owes their position to Rajnath Singh or Gadkari or the RSS were to be named as the BJP President, this would create a problem. It would force Modi always to look for Rajnath Singh’s/Gakari’s next move to ease him out become the PM himself.

Modi needs to be given a free hand. He should not worry about his own party stabbing him in the back.

Indians want good governance. As opinion polls and exit polls show, good governance was the top reason for favoring Modi. If Modi wants to deliver, he will need to take tough decisions such as the Railway price hike. Hence, he needs his own man as the BJP President.

In sum, Amit Shah is the appropriate person as the next BJP President not because he is responsible for the BJP’s victory in UP. Amit Shah needs to be made BJP President because he enjoys Modi’s complete trust and will make sure that the BJP supports the tough decisions Modi will need to make.

An afterthought: I think Rajnath Singh will do well as the next CM of UP, and Nitin Gadkari as the next CM of Maharasthra. Think about it….

2 comments on “On Amit Shah’s Elevation as the Next BJP President by Aseem Prakash

  1. Anil Gupta says:

    good point, i agree with your analysis, but then complexity in UP is very high, heterogeneity is also high, 7/7 is good but when 80 seats are involved and several major contenders are involved, strategy has a role. The page leader ( that is a perosnw ho has to bring all voters to booth mentioned on that poage was a new tactis part of overall strategy to polarose, it worked for the party. I dont think one ca grudge credit easily. However, we have seen what that does to tricks, mistry did very well, it seems for congress in karnataka, was elevated. see what did he do to congress in last elections. so playing the same card in politics twice doesn't always work, this to me is the real risk! electorate is wise and sees the real content quickly. his criteria change and so should the trick, see what is happening in west bengal. TMC is using CPM methods with greater banality, its not working out. so, who shoudl be bjp president and whether he/she should be Modi's person be a matter left best to BJP. i have nothing to say. But that person should mobilise and maintain the support of new fickle minded youth who can ditch and switch their support as they did in DElhi from AAP to BJP, they can do otherwise too, so gain their trust but there is no policy yet for them.

  2. prakash.aseem@gmail.com says:

    How would one empirically assess the claim that UP was tougher for the BJP? Perhaps look at the vote share or seat share in 2009. Or, look at the number of contenders, or coalition partners. I don’t think in any of these counts, one can assert that UP was tougher.

    Take the case of the level of heterogeneity or the number of contenders. In UP, it has not changed in 2014 in relation to 2009. In fact, in some other states, the coalition politics worked against the BJP. Take the case of Bihar. Arguably, in 2009 the BJP had a sweeter deal because it had aligned with Nitish. Not so in 2014. Indeed, Nitish was so confident about himself, and ambitious about becoming the next PM, that he thought he does not need the BJP. Plus, he was a very good CM and wanted to ride on the goodwill his good governance has created.

    Similarly, take the case of Haryana or Assam. In Delhi, there was supposed to be the AAP wave — to the extent that Kejriwal began to see himself as the next PM, and Sisodia as the next CM of Delhi should Kejriwal move to the Center. Yet, the BJP did very well.

    Net, I don’t think UP was much different in terms of electoral competition in 2014 in relation to 2009. In several other states, BJP was actually worse off in 2014 in relation to 2009 when the election season kicked off. And yet the BJP did well in these states.

    One of these days, if I can find time, I will try to run a regression to quantitatively assess this argument.

    Your point about the fickleness of the electorate is well taken. People expect miracles and politicians promise them. Let us see what Modi can deliver.

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