In January this year, Satyadev Pachauri — a minister in the Uttar Pradesh government — with other BJP workers released a booklet in Kanpur as a report card on the infrastructure works done in the industrial city with the MP Local Area Development Funds of Murli Manohar Joshi, as well as other works done in the city on his initiative in the past five years.
Two months later, Joshi, a former BJP president, issued a letter to voters in Kanpur saying, “Shri Ramlal General Secretary (Org.) Bharatiya Janata Party conveyed to me today that I should not contest the ensuing parliamentary election from Kanpur and elsewhere.” Hours after his letter became viral on social media, the BJP named Pachauri as the party candidate from Kanpur, replacing Joshi. Follow more election news here.
By then, BJP workers, apparently clueless about the impending sequence of events, had already distributed hundreds of booklets highlighting works done by Joshi.
To the 85-year-old BJP leader, the development must seem a repeat of what happened in Varanasi five years back when he was shifted from the constituency to make way for the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. What followed was a poster war between supporters of Modi and Joshi in Varanasi. Joshi had already set up his election office in the constituency and had gone on to release a booklet on the works done in Varanasi during his 2009-2014 tenure, which was widely distributed.
After a BJP rally in Lucknow saw slogans seeking Joshi’s “tyaag (sacrifice)” and Modi’s “raaj (rule)”, Joshi’s supporters had gone through Varanasi putting up hoardings and raising slogans against terrorism such as “Atankwad par lage lagaam, Dr Joshi ka paigam”, and supporting Joshi, including “Bole Kashi Vishwanath, Dr Joshi ka denge saath”.
The decision to replace Joshi in Kanpur this time followed the allotment of BJP founding member L K Advani’s seat Gandhinagar in Gujarat to party president Amit Shah. Both Joshi and Advani are part of the BJP’s largely defunct ‘Margdarshak Mandal’, which was carved out for them after Modi’s win in 2014.
Other BJP veterans like Shanta Kumar, B S Koshyari, B C Khanduri and Kalraj Mishra haven’t got tickets either.
A post-graduate in physics who was a professor at Allahabad University, Joshi has had a long association with the Sangh Parivar, having held positions in the ABVP and Bharatiya Jana Sangh from 1954 to 1977. He was elected to the Lok Sabha the first time in 1977 as a Bharatiya Lok Dal nominee from Almora.
Made the BJP president for a two-year tenure in 1991, Joshi led the party through the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and Babri Masjid demolition. At the time, BJP slogans always had his name along with party stalwarts Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani: “Atal-Advani-Joshi, zindabad-zindabad”.
As BJP president, he also undertook the ‘Ekta Yatra’ from Kanyakumari to Srinagar, to highlight Pakistan’s role in Kashmir situation. As part of this, he hoisted the Tricolour at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Republic Day, 1992.
Joshi was re-elected to Parliament in 1996, 1998, 1999, on a BJP ticket from Allahabad. In the 2004 elections, however, he lost. When he won in 2009 from Varanasi, it was by a narrow margin of 17,211 votes against the BSP’s Mukhtar Ansari.
After he was reluctantly shifted to Kanpur in 2014, Joshi defeated senior Congress leader and former Union minister Sriprakash Jaiswal by a margin of 2.22 lakh votes amidst a Modi wave.
Joshi has also been a Rajya Sabha member for two terms.