Mumbai: The former Chief Minister and Lok Sabha Speaker, senior Shiv Sena leader, Manohar Joshi has credited ex-Prime Minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee for making him the head of the state. This statement hasn’t gone down well with devout Shiv Sainiks who have termed it “wrong”.
Sainiks have called Joshi “ungrateful”, as they claim it was Sena supremo late Balasaheb Thackeray who was responsible for Joshi being made the Chief Minister, despite Thackeray not being in favour of him. However, nobody was ready to speak against ‘Joshi sir’ on record due to his seniority. Some old timers though recalled that Thackeray personally wanted to make Sudhir Joshi the CM, and had declared the name in their meeting but the Sena founder was coerced later by a political confidante and close Maratha leader.
Joshi, while speaking to a regional news channel, recalled his memories of then PM Vajpayee when Joshi was Speaker of Lok Sabha (LS). He said he could assume the post of LS speaker only due to a firm stand taken by Vajpayee then. “I thought it was impossible to become the LS Speaker. I never thought about it. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), especially Vajpayee’s stand helped me. Had he not taken that firm stand, I would not have become the Speaker,” said Joshi and added, “Not just that, I could reach the position of CM of Maharashtra due to BJP’s and Vajpayee’s support.” Joshi told a Marathi news channel.
Joshi was the Speaker of the LS from 2002 to 2004 during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rule. He was the non-Congress CM of Maharashtra from 1995–1999 during Shiv Sena-BJP alliance government. When asked to state how the BJP was responsible in him assuming the post of Chief Minister in 1995, Joshi said, “Whenever such a big decision is taken in a party, it is taken by the party chief. He gets the first credit. Those who helped me get the post included the BJP as well. I said it (credited Vajpayee) in that context.”
Harshal Pradhan, media incharge of Sena blamed the media for twisting and wrongly interpreting the statement. He refused to elaborate futher on the issue. Senior Sena leaders and Vibhag Pramukhs also didn’t wish to go on record, but said, “Joshi Sir was wrong”. “Each and every senior leader of party working at any position presently, has been blessed by Balasaheb only. In fact, earlier Sudhir Joshi’s name was chosen as CM of the first Sena-BJP alliance government. However, it was taken back and Joshi sir became CM. At that time BJP could not intervene in the internal affairs of Sena,” a senior leader clarified.
The leader, did add, “We cannot speak against Joshi Sir. We will as a party ignore his controversial statement respecting his age.” In the afternoon, recalling his interactions with the late BJP stalwart, Joshi said he was friendly with everybody and though the founder of Sena, late Thackeray and Vajpayee were poles apart in nature, the common factor between them was their humour and poetic minds. “Vajpayee ji was good with everybody despite his stature. He ensured the Sena-BJP alliance remained intact for 25 years,” said the Vibhag Pramukh.
This isn’t the first time Joshi has run foul of his own party. In 2013, Joshi had sparked a controversy when he obliquely criticised party chief Uddhav Thackeray during a public speech in Mumbai for not being aggressive enough in demanding a memorial for Bal Thackeray at Shivaji Park, Dadar. “Had Thackeray faced such an issue over a memorial for his father, he would have brought down the government,” Joshi had said. As a result, Joshi was booed off the stage by Shiv Saniks at the Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park on October 13, 2013. But, now, despite these remarks, the Sainiks simply want to ignore Joshi.