Amit Shah: Here's what you need to know about the Indian election candidate

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A quick guide to Amit Shah

Home Minister Amit Shah is a polarising figure, often called India’s second most powerful man. He’s been central to the rise of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Here’s what you need to know about him.

He’s a small-town activist who rose to the top

Amit Shah was born on 22 October 1964 in Mansa, a town in Gujarat state. His father was a small businessman and his mother a housewife.

He studied biochemistry and entered the BJP through its student wing in the early 1980s, but didn’t stand for election until 1997, when he won a state assembly seat.

Mr Shah and his wife Sonal married in 1987 and had a son, Jay, the following year.

Shah is close to Modi

Amit Shah met Narendra Modi, who is seeking a third consecutive term as prime minister, when Mr Shah joined the right-wing Hindu RSS organisation in 1982.

They formed an immediate bond and as Mr Modi rose through the ranks, so did Mr Shah.

“He is useful to Modi, he is the road roller who flattens obstacles in his way," a journalist in his home state Gujarat told the BBC.

He learnt his political craft in Gujarat

Religious riots in the state in 2002 and their aftermath provided the backdrop against which the two men’s relationship flourished.

Mr Modi, who was then the state’s chief minister, denied not doing enough to prevent the carnage.

After the riots, he appointed Amit Shah as Gujarat’s home minister.

Jail time was a game-changer

In 2008 Amit Shah's life and career began unravelling when he was accused of being involved in the killing of a Muslim couple.

Mr Shah denied charges of murder and kidnapping and was acquitted after three months in jail.

Colleagues say he turned this low point to his advantage, vowing to ensure the BJP won office.

The party swept to power in 2014 and Mr Modi became prime minister. But Mr Shah stayed as party chief and went on to win many state elections for the BJP. He joined Mr Modi’s cabinet as home minister after scripting another general election win for the BJP in 2019.

He’s a shy man you wouldn’t want to cross

Amit Shah’s image now is different from the quiet boy classmates remember from school. He remains fiercely loyal to his friends - but opponents cross him at their peril.

Mr Shah lacks the star power of his mentor and is more private - making him an ideal partner for Mr Modi, who thrives in the limelight.

Many have criticised his comments against Muslims

Just like Narendra Modi, Amit Shah is a hardline Hindu nationalist. He has crafted highly controversial legislation that is seen as discriminatory against Muslims and at rallies, he often speaks of "us and them".

In 2019 he was widely criticised for describing illegal Muslim immigrants as “termites”.

Mr Shah is still seen as a possible future prime minister - although there is no sign of a vacancy as Mr Modi, 73, appears in good health and set to continue as leader.

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