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India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party chooses close aide to prime minister as its new chief

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NEW DELHI — A close aide of India's prime minister who is widely credited with his party's spectacular electoral win was appointed Wednesday chief of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Amit Shah was unanimously chosen as the BJP's new president at a meeting of party leaders in New Delhi. He replaces Rajnath Singh, who recently was sworn in as home minister in Narendra Modi's Cabinet.

PHOTO: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, second from right, greets newly appointed Bharatiya Janata party or BJP president Amit Shah, second from left, as outgoing party president Rajnath Singh, left, and BJP senior leader L.K.Advani watch, at the party's headquarters in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Shah, a close aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been appointed chief of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Shah replaces Rajnath Singh who was recently sworn in as home minister in Modi’s cabinet. (AP Photo /Manish Swarup)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, second from right, greets newly appointed Bharatiya Janata party or BJP president Amit Shah, second from left, as outgoing party president Rajnath Singh, left, and BJP senior leader L.K.Advani watch, at the party's headquarters in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Shah, a close aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been appointed chief of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Shah replaces Rajnath Singh who was recently sworn in as home minister in Modi’s cabinet. (AP Photo /Manish Swarup)

Shah, 50, is widely seen as the architect of the BJP's spectacular win in northern India, especially in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh. The BJP cornered 71 of the 80 parliament seats in Uttar Pradesh, ensuring that it emerged as the single largest party in Parliament.

Shah was an activist with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or the National Volunteers Association, a militant Hindu movement and parent organization of the BJP. A longtime Modi confidant, Shah served as junior home minister of Gujarat state when Modi was the state's chief minister.

Shah resigned from the minister's post and spent three months in jail in 2010 on charges of sanctioning the police killing of a small-time criminal and his wife. Shah, who denies the accusations, was released on bail and the case is ongoing.

A sharp political strategist, Shah is expected to play a key role in upcoming elections in three major states of Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand. The BJP is hoping to wrest control of all three states from the main opposition Congress party.

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