At a recent rally, he indirectly pointed to Sena chief’s ‘weak’ leadership
Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi might be wishing he had spent a quiet Sunday at home. After his public humiliation at the party’s annual Dussera rally, it’s clear that the 75-year-old leader faces total marginalisation within the party.
Mr. Joshi has been Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Union Minister and Mumbai Mayor. Besides, he spun a parallel career as a successful builder, spawning the Kohinoor empire of apartments, hotels and coaching classes.
Mr. Joshi was booed by his partymen when he climbed the stage. He left the rally within minutes, with party chief Uddhav Thackeray making no attempt to stop him. In fact Mr. Thackeray’s speech had a clear reference to Mr. Joshi. He said he would not tolerate “anarchy within the party” or “take decisions under pressure.”
Mr. Joshi knows all too well that the party tolerates no dissent. Party leaders said he sealed his own fate by criticising Mr. Thackeray at a public forum just two days before the rally.
Indirectly pointing to his “weak” leadership, Mr. Joshi said if the party’s founder Bal Thackeray were alive and wanted to build a memorial for his own father no State government would have dared to oppose it.
Shortly after the rally, Mr. Joshi said: “Shiv sainiks are not angry with me. This is just a misunderstanding.”
But it’s clear the party has had enough.
Party MLA Subhash Desai said, “We have a lot of respect for Mr. Joshi. He is such a senior leader, but the cadre was angry with what he said. And Mr. Joshi must have been aware they were angry when he came for the rally.”
It’s no secret that Mr. Joshi’s outburst was triggered by his failed attempts to wrest a Lok Sabha ticket from the party. His desire to contest from the party’s bastion Dadar through the Mumbai South-Central seat was quashed by Mr. Thackeray, who prefers a younger face. Mr. Joshi has won two Assembly elections from Dadar but lost the Lok Sabha polls by a massive margin in 2004.
Taken aback by the refusal, Mr. Joshi went a step further by meeting the Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, sparking reports that he was exploring other options, even a Rajya Sabha seat supported by parties, including the NCP. There was also talk that he was exploring options with Raj Thackeray’s party, but this the party has denied.
“With all this, Mr. Joshi has just exposed his own greed and opportunism,” said a senior Sena leader.
It’s true that Mr. Joshi has had a tremendously successful run in the party. He’s been an MLA twice, an MLC three times and an MP twice (once from the Rajya Sabha). That run could be over for good. The Sena strategy now seems to be to ignore Mr. Joshi and keep him out of the electoral race.