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Day of the outsider

He fought god, a smoking habit and the bottle. Chandra Prakash Joshi is now ready for his biggest battle. Kumkum Chadha examines.

india Updated: Jun 19, 2009 23:00 IST
Kumkum Chadha

Rajasthan’s Chandra Prakash Joshi can’t get over the fact that he has been inducted into Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet. Kabhi soch nahin sakta tha Joshi confessed to HT, “MOS shayaad par Cabinet minister sapne mein bhi nahin” (Minister of State maybe but never dreamt of being a Cabinet Minister.) Joshi is clearly ecstatic. Given a chance, he would do the jig to Oye main dilli pahunch gaya (I have reached Delhi).

There are different theories about how Joshi made it to Delhi. One is that his work as state rural development and panchayati raj minister paid dividends. Two, as Pradesh Congress Committee chief he had galvanised the party in Rajasthan. Three, that his interactions with Rahul Gandhi helped him get noticed. And four,which perhaps is more plausible than the rest, it was “sheer luck”.

Quick Bio

CP Joshi (59) is Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj
Inspiration: Mohanlal Sukhadia and Sonia Gandhi
Aim: People should think I am worth it
Fear factor: Failing Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh
Dream: To live upto people’s expectations
Our take: Simple and low profile. Was a surprise choice in Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet and needs to prove his mettle at the national level.

Till he did reach Delhi though, life was rough. He battled political opposition from within and outside the Congress. He was denied the opportunity to contest an election more than once because his detractors had a hot line to Delhi while he did not. Joshi fought God and vowed not to visit a temple till political justice was delivered. Given the temple’s sanctity, it was an unprecedented step.

Popular as “Master sahib ka larka” (teacher’s son) Joshi spent his initial years in Nathdwara where his father, Bhoodev Prasad, taught in a primary school. Joshi majored in physics and psychology. Between fighting, losing and winning elections, he did his doctorate and law.

His proximity to Ashok Gehlot, then state chief of the Congress, once again brought him to center stage. In 1998, he was inducted in Gehlot’s Cabinet. Last year, he lost the assembly elections by just one vote. This time around, in 2009, he was twice lucky: he won his first Parliamentary election and was inducted into the Cabinet as a first termer.

As a student leader, when he met Mohan Lal Sukhadia, the state’s then Chief Minister, the first thing he told him was about the house Sukhadia had spent the night in, after marrying the daughter of a tawaif (courtesan), Indubala; that and the fact that his father trained the Nathdwara Tilkayat (Chief priest) in cricket and tennis.

Joshi’s university job as a lecturer ensured a paycheck for sixty years. “In college, my job was secure till 60 years. So I figured that if I joined politics, I would not say quits till then”. Joshi turns 59 next month. Thanks to his Delhi sojourn, he is busy planning for the next five years.

Joshi’s stay in the university campus has been eventful. A chain smoker, he often went on a midnight hunt for cigarettes. His father, a puritan, always placed a pack by his bedside every morning: “A must”said Joshi “to start the day”. Yet in the mornings, Joshi was at his worst: his short temper got the better of him and on most evenings, he hit the bottle. Once alcohol took a toll on his health he switched to beer: Professor IV Trivedi who was with him in college thinks of him as a “very determined person”. “Once he quit, he never touched alcohol or puffed again.”

His other talent: Joshi can mesmerise an audience. Those who have heard him speak confirm as much. During university elections, he had a support base among women. Yet he nursed a bleeding heart. His was not a case of being jilted. Before he could express his feelings, the lady in question passed out. While it is tough to substantiate whether she is among his detractors in the Congress, there are reports that the next time their paths crossed, she was an MP and he a struggling MLA. Joshi married late: in 1986. His wife, Hemlata, is a geography professor. To quote Joshi, “a pious lady, same caste, same profession.”