This round to Modi,but no one’s counting Joshi out yet

Forced out of BJP national executive,quiet yet busy leader is known for comebacks

Written by Swaraj Thapa | Mumbai | Published: May 28, 2012 3:09:34 am

Last week,he was unceremoniously dropped from the BJP national executive even as he reached Mumbai to attend its meeting. Not too long ago,Sanjay Joshi,the former general secretary,who had to suffer this humiliation because of his rivalry with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi,had been counted among the powerful leaders in the Sangh Parivar.

Joshi retreated after the RSS leadership and BJP president Nitin Gadkari prevailed upon him to resign from the national executive,but given his temperament and personality as described by those who have known him,it is unlikely he will forget and forgive. They expect him to work silently on a plan to fight the battle another day.

Joshi,who studied mechanical engineering,is known to be a quiet political worker and a great motivator behind the scenes. His tussle with Modi dates back to the time when he was sent to Gujarat in 1989 by the RSS leadership. Senior Gujarat leaders say the two,in fact,began as good friends during the time when Modi was general secretary in the Gujarat BJP and Joshi was secretary (organisation) on deputation from the RSS.

Then the differences cropped up. It was the time when the power shift in Gujarat took place and Keshubhai Patel became chief minister in 1995. Within a year,Shankersinh Vaghela revolted against Keshubhai,who had to step down with Suresh Mehta succeeding him. When elections were held again in 1998,Gujarat leaders contend,it was Joshi’s backroom managerial skills — who by this time had decided to side with Keshubhai — that proved the key to the BJP bouncing back in the state. Keshubhai became chief minister once again and Joshi,party leaders say,worked behind the scenes against Modi,who subsequently got banished to the Centre.

Modi’s fortunes turned in 2001,when he returned as chief minister. As part of a compromise,Joshi was moved to Delhi and made general secretary (organisation) in the BJP. Soon,he emerged one of the most powerful leaders in the saffron stable. Within a couple of years,he was part of the two most important bodies in the BJP,the parliamentary board and the central election committee,and had run-ins with several senior leaders. He directly took on L K Advani,criticising him for his remarks on Jinnah in 2005.

A few months later,Joshi’s power run was suddenly brought to a halt. A controversial CD containing sexually explicit material allegedly involving him surfaced during the silver jubilee celebrations in Mumbai. Joshi was forced to step down as general secretary and even the RSS had to distance itself from him,saying he was no longer a pracharak.

Joshi’s vanvas ended months later,after the MP police certified the CD was fake,and the RSS re-anointed him pracharak. “Kaho dil se,Sanjay Joshi phir se” (say from you heart,Sanjay Joshi once again) surfaced in various places in Gujarat,marking the campaign to bring him back. The BJP too reappointed him general secretary.

But the damage had been done. In January 2007,he was dropped as general secretary — with a cryptic BJP press release saying that in view of a request made by Sanjay Joshi to relieve him of his responsibility,party president Rajnath Singh was doing so. The removal was attributed to Advani,forcing the party to formally deny he had any role in it.

After Gadkari’s elevation as party president,Joshi came back into circulation. Relations between the two go back a long way; both belong to Nagpur. The re-entry was facilitated through UP,where he was brought in with a role in the Assembly elections. So keen was Joshi to make a comeback that within days of his role being announced,he made his way to the party office in Lucknow and began making decisions. Sources say his role in UP was worked out by Gadkari in consultation with Mohan Bhagwat,who is one of Joshi’s primary backers.

Though the RSS,Gadkari and Joshi have backed off for the time being,their hand forced by Modi,party leaders contend it may not be too long before Joshi will make another attempt at rehabilitation.

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