Academic laid low by ambition

Manohar Joshi should have realised his time was up and quit politics, remaining, perhaps, only in the capacity of a senior adviser

Academic laid low by ambition

Former Chief Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker and Shiv Sena stalwart, Manohar Joshi should now consider an addition to his sprawling academic-cum-commercial Kohinoor Complex at Dadar, to enhance the ‘scholarly’ reputation of the place. An office section to rewrite literary classics, including Shakespeare, would be ideal. This columnist would readily offer his services for the job and throw in some hints to make the project a success.

Why not start with the famous ‘Seven Ages of Man’ passage from the romantic comedy, ‘As you Like it’, where human life begins with the ‘the infant, mewling and puking’ and ends with the last stage, ‘Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.’ After his experience at the Sena public meeting on Dussehra, Joshi himself could rewrite the above as ‘Sans pride, sans self respect, sans dignity.’ Many passages in ‘Julius Caesar’ call for a rewrite to reflect modern times. Joshi could exclaim in despair, addressing Shivaji Park Maidan,
‘Pardon me, thou unforgettable
place of my success
That I am meek and gentle
with these ignoramuses
Thou art the ruins of the
noblest piece of political turf
Where I strode in triumph.’
Even the impending retirement of Mumbai’s golden boy, Sachin Tendulkar, failed to sound the warning bells for Manohar Joshi. For years, he was an important member of the Sena, but did not belong to the ‘Family.’ He carried out faithfully orders from the Thackeray clan, which allowed him a fair amount of political freedom and full freedom to make money through real estate, development and the Kohinoor empire. Sena eyebrows were raised when Joshi entered into multi-crore real estate deals with Raj Thackeray, whose relation with the Sena leadership was then cooling off. As the split between the First Family and Raj widened, Joshi cast his lot with Uddhav, but on many occasions, aired the view that the two cousins should come together.
It is hard to understand Joshi’s rise to the top in the Sena. He came to Bombay as a teacher. Normally, the teaching profession is associated with uniting divergent forces and strengthening the intellectual base of the state. But driven by personal ambition, Joshi overlooked these ideals and readily supported the political ideology of the Sena, started by Thackeray, while he was cartooning for The Free Press Journal. The narrow-minded ideology that jobs in the city were being cornered by South Indians, while Sindhis, Marwaris and Gujaratis ran successful businesses, readily appealed to sections of the local population, which seldom put its best foot forward as far as hard work was concerned. The Sena philosophy readily appealed to these sections to let out their frustrations, beat up and drive away non-Maharashtrians from the city and grab whatever that was left behind.
‘Academicians’ like Manohar Joshi should have opposed these trends, but that did not happen. In fact, it led to the consolidation of Fascist trends. The Sena leadership openly claimed it did not believe in democracy. If the ‘diktat’ of the Supremo was not obeyed, he ordered his ‘boys’ to take over and make short work of anyone who did not fall in line. In the 1970s, the ruling Congress, to its eternal shame, backed the Sena to check the strength of the Marxist trade unions and the Communist movement, which were unable to hit back . This clandestine arrangement ultimately led to the creation of the Sena Frankenstein, which began to run rampage in the city with increasing frequency. Why did ‘academicians’ like Manohar Joshi go along with this trend? By that time, the Kohinoor empire and other money-making enterprises were in full swing. Life was easy, cosy and what price idealism? Marathi pride answered all these queries and solved all misgivings.
By that time, the Sena was well-entrenched in politics. Balasabeb Thckeray had built a strong coterie, of which Joshi was a vital member. Balasaheb did not contest any elections. When the Sena-BJP alliance came to power, everyone knew where the real power lay. Chief Minister Joshi knew he had a limited role to play. This was made known to the public during the Enron controversy, when the Enron super boss chose to wait, meet and discuss details with Balasaheb, keeping the chief minister waiting in the sidelines. This led to the creation of a new political term, ‘remote control.’ Thanks to the highly biased approach of the media, this ‘remote control’ issue was seldom highlighted, and all the time blame sought to be rested upon the Congress and its high command. Manmohan Singh, the distinguished economist, who led India to the era of economic liberation, was supposed to be under the thumb of Sonia Gandhi, while in Mumbai, we saw an inglorious repeat of this between the Sena high command and its powerless leaders.
Generational changes have often rocked Indian politics. The rank and file of the party should quickly adapt itself to these changes. Starting with Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi, the Congress has witnessed several changes. But the party has survived these because by and large, it did not abandon fundamentals like secularism, its commitment to remove poverty. It has not been the same with smaller, regional parties. Despite his personal popularity, Balasaheb never ‘governed’ the state and this went against him. No one can ever know how he would have governed the state. The Sena-BJP reign over the Bombay Municipal Corporation was a disaster. As the BMC Mayor and then the Chief Minister, Joshi never distinguished himelf. Perhaps, he could not escape the remote control. For senior leaders like Joshi, Thackeray’s death has been a huge loss. On a personal level, they have been unable to adjust themselves to function in a party whose control is now in the hands of a much younger generation. Mumbai has been shaken by the loss of Thackeray. The Sena has lost its strongholds one after another and has not even been able to retain even a single assembly constituency in Joshi’s stronghold, Dadar. Joshi should have realised his time was up and quit politics, remaining perhaps, only in the capacity of a senior adviser. That did not happen. We do not know why all of a sudden he made those intemperate remarks over Uddhav’s running the Sena, clearly hinting that Uddhav was incapable of providing a strong, militant leadership to the Sena on sensitive issues like constructing a fitting memorial to Balasaheb. Such ‘strong’ comments seem out of place when the Sena has already split and is losing its strength in vital constituencies. For all his experience in state politics, Joshi has blundered badly.
Why don’t politicians retire when they have outlived their use? The Sena rank and file today is quite different from the one when Joshi ruled the roost. Worse, despite his humiliating exit from Shivaji Park, Joshi has not ruled out joining the BJP, the MNS or the NCP. What will these parties gain from such an acquisition? Nothing!

V Gangadhar

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