Shah hopes to ride sympathy wave

Amit Shah

"Amitbhai gave me shelter after AMC demolished my house about three years ago," said Laxmanbhai, a vegetable vendor who was thrilled after garlanding Shah.

"Amitbhai was the home minister of Gujarat. Whatever happened to him was not good," said Manilal Prabhudas Patel, a teacher and resident of Gokuldham Housing Society, from where Amit Shah's caravan passed by.

Soon after the Assembly elections in December 2002, Shah was inducted as minister of state for home. As the youngest minister in Narendra Modi's cabinet, he gradually emerged as the right-hand of the CM and also came to enjoy close proximity with BJP veteran L K Advani.

His trouble started in July 2010, the 48-year-old Shah was charged in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case by the CBI. Four months later, Shah was freed on bail but barred by the Supreme Court from entering Gujarat so that he could not influence witnesses.

About two months ago, Shah returned from his exile after Supreme Court granted him relief ahead of Assembly polls.

'My rival a turncoat, I will win with a huge margin'

Have the charges against you in the fake encounter cases impacted your political standing?

I have gained more sympathy.

The whole thing (encounter cases) is politically motivated. Congress has been losing since early 1990s. They are desperate to come to power again by creating issues out 12 encounters in Gujarat and forgetting similar cases across the country.

Do you think you lost your base while you were away since October 2010?

I had apprehensions that I would lose it, but BJP as an institution is very strong. Instead, I have gained sympathy of party workers who have kept my base intact.

What do you think will be your winning margin this time?

I have been winning elections with big margins (record was 2.35 lakh in 2007). Since Naranpura is a newly carved constituency from Sarkhej and number of voters are a little over 2 lakh, I will win with huge percentage.

... contd.

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