Manohar Joshi: A 'Kohinoor Class' All By Himself

Manohar Joshi: A 'Kohinoor Class' All By Himself

Manohar Joshi started his career as an RSS swayamsevak in Dadar in the '60s and like thousands of other middle-class Maharashtrians, was drawn to the fiery speeches of Bal Thackeray, who spoke about the injustice being done to Marathi 'manoos.'

S BalakrishnanUpdated: Saturday, February 24, 2024, 11:13 AM IST
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Manohar Joshi: A 'Kohinoor Class' All By Himself |

Mumbai: In the death of Manohar Joshi, 86, the Shiv Sena has lost a father figure, who had many a time tendered sage advice to the late supremo of the militant organisation founded by Bal Thackeray. Because of his excellent personal equation with other leaders like Sharad Pawar and the late A R Antulay and leading businessmen, like the late Ramkrishna Bajaj, he became the party's chief interlocutor.

Along with Pramod Navalkar and Chhagan Bhujbal, he formed the triumvirate which followed Bal Thackeray like a shadow. However, Bhujbal felt that Joshi was being given more weightage by Thackeray and he quit the party. Navalkar was content to write columns in newspapers. But it was the shrewd Joshi who had his eye on the CM's chair.

He started his career as an RSS swayamsevak in Dadar in the '60s and like thousands of other middle-class Maharashtrians, was drawn to the fiery speeches of Bal Thackeray, who spoke about the injustice being done to Marathi 'manoos.' Thackeray made it appear that Marathi people were not getting jobs because of the 'lungiwalas,' a pejorative reference to south Indians. He gave the call for 'Bajao Pungi, Bhagao Lungi (blow the trumpet, throw out lungiwalas).' This call found tremendous resonance among middle-class Maharashtrians like Joshi. It was Joshi’s idea to publish in the party weekly 'Marmik' lists of non-Marathi employees in various organisations like the Reserve Bank, State Bank of India, Life Insurance Corporation.

Impressed by Joshi's organisational and fund-raising capabilities, Thackeray gave him a ticket to contest the 1968 elections to the BMC. Joshi won the poll and that was the beginning of his electoral career. He went on to become a member of the legislative council, legislative assembly and then a Lok Sabha member. In between, he was elected as mayor of Mumbai. Interestingly, he was an employee of the BMC earlier.

He had strong business instincts and embarked on the setting up of vocational guidance centres under the brand name 'Kohinoor Classes,' which opened branches across Maharashtra. On realising that a real-estate boom was round the corner, he became a builder. When the Sena, in tandem with the BJP, secured a majority in 1995, Thackeray handpicked Joshi for the CM's post. He was the first non-Congress CM and a Brahmin to boot.

In a state dominated by the Marathas with deep reservations vis-à-vis Brahmins, Thackeray took the risk of pitching Joshi to the CM’s office on the sixth floor of Mantralaya. 'Sir,' as he was called by all, Joshi quickly took charge of the reins of government.

However, too many developments went against him. One was the feeling created by certain Tier-2 leaders of the party that Joshi was becoming too big for his Kolhapuris. The other was the land grab by his son-in-law Girish Vyas in Pune; the latter built an 11-storeyed building on a 30,000 sq ft prime plot that had been was reserved for a primary school, on Prabhat Road. An activist, Vijay Kumbhar, initiated a PIL in the late '90s and won both in the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court. Following a public outcry, Thackeray removed Joshi from the CM's post in February 1999 and replaced him with the dark horse, Narayan Rane.

Despite this pushback, Joshi continued to be loyal to the Thackerays and continued to play an active role in party affairs. He shared a good equation with Uddhav Thackeray. In fact, he played a crucial role in getting Uddhav anointed as his father's successor. But then he found himself besieged in problems related to his real estate business. The Kohinoor tower opposite the Sena Bhavan in Dadar proved to be a white elephant. His health too began deteriorating. However, the biggest blow came when his wife Anagha, who was his pillar of strength, died in August 2020 and he never recovered from the loss.

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