Manohar Gajanan Joshi, the 75-year-old former Lok Sabha Speaker and the late Balasaheb Thackeray’s battle-hardened satrap, has gone out of sight, for now – spending “quality time” with grandchildren at his ancestral village Nandvi in Konkan.
Joshi hasn’t taken political sanyas. Shiv Sena observers say he is licking his wounds after a disastrous fight with his mentor’s son, Uddhav.
Joshi challenged Uddhav in public and criticised his style of leadership — the first such incident after the death of Thackeray Senior. In return, he was booed at the annual Dussehra rally on Sunday and was denied a ticket in the elections.
Known as a close aide of the Balasaheb for more than four decades, Joshi is fast becoming an untouchable within the Sena. But is this the end of the road for Joshi?
A Sena leader, not willing to be named, said Uddhav was in no mood to extend an olive branch to Joshi. “Uddhavji does not want any further indiscipline in the party. He has sounded a warning bell for others.”
He said although Joshi’s options are apparently limited, he could still have some aces up his sleeve (see box). He may either buy time to make peace with Uddhav or look for help for his next political move — a seat in Parliament, even if as an independent.
But political analyst B Venkatesh Kumar said, “I think Joshi is in a retrospective mood and, hence, preferred a sabbatical in his native village.” Kumar saw the transition in the Sena taking a toll on veteran leaders like Joshi.
He said, “It’s primarily a generation gap that created the rift between Uddhav and Joshi, who is the only Sena leader who has substantial recognition outside Maharashtra because of the positions he held in the past.”
One of the top strategists in the Sena, Joshi was reduced to a spectator as Uddhav’s team took control of the party over the past couple of years. Finally, Joshi — known as a survivor — lost patience as his request for a Lok Sabha ticket for Mumbai south central or neighbouring Thane or Kalyan was turned down.
Will Joshi’s rebellion damage the Sena? The Sena tradition is that anybody who challenges the leadership is either sidelined or forced to quit. But unlike the other rebels — Chhagan Bhujbal or Narayan Rane — Joshi does not have substantial following in the party.
A senior Sena leader said, “At the most, Joshi could be used by Sena rivals MNS or NCP to show how Uddhav is still not an undisputed leader in the party and create confusion among Sena cadres whether the party would remain united after Balasaheb.”
As of now, Uddhav has managed to contain the effects of Joshi’s rebellion. There was not a single word of dissent from Sena workers though several party veterans are unhappy over the way Joshi was booed.
For the record, the party sought to play down the episode. Sena MP Bharatkumar Raut said, “We’re confident that Mr Joshi would continue to work in the Sena, and the party, too, would offer him due honour.”
Meanwhile, a close aide of Joshi told HT: “He doesn’t want to make any comment whatsoever on the issue and create any further controversy.”