Quick with temper and tricks, Joshi is BJP's controversy magnet

  • Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Feb 20, 2015 07:41 IST

Brash, quarrelsome, opportunistic - these are some of the adjectives used frequently for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Punjab's local bodies minister Anil Joshi. Infamous for his bullying ways and a mercurial temperament, the 50-year-old native of Sangha village in Tarn Taran has had a meteoric rise nonetheless.

From a BJP block unit president in the hinterland of Majha on the border with Pakistan, he landed in state capital Chandigarh to become a key minister in just 12 years, from 2002 to 2012.

Since then, he has gone from one controversy to another, the latest reflected in the posters put up by workers of an incensed ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in his hometown about his violent streak.

Role of tragedy

His village was a hotbed of Khalistani terrorism in the late '80s when Joshi moved to Tarn Taran town, barely 4 km from Sangha, with his elder brother, and started a textile business. Son of a schoolteacher, he had already started dabbling in politics by then. But it was the killing of his father by terrorists in 1991 that brought him much closer to the BJP and the ideology of its parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).

By 2002, he had risen to become the president of the BJP's Amritsar rural unit. In 2007, he fought his first assembly election, but not without event. He got the ticket from Amritsar West after moving party veteran Baldev Raj Chawla out of the segment. He won again in 2012, and was made a minister.

A slap and more

Upon coming out after taking oath, minister Joshi slapped a government driver attached with him, as he wanted his personal driver to take the wheel. That was just a sign.

While climbing the pedestal of politics quickly, Joshi ignored an important lesson, of not dabbling into other's domains. This, in effect, led to the latest controversy in Tarn Taran when a group of Akalis assaulted his brother Raja Joshi, for whom the minister is eyeing a big role in the local civic body. Local SAD MLA Harmeet Sandhu does not like the Joshis' interference, which was seen as the reason behind the clash. It has led to the SAD and BJP now engaging in a no-holds-barred contest for the Tarn Taran council. In fact, the violence was a repeat of the 2009 panchayat polls, when a vehicle of one of Joshi's supporters was burnt.

Moving allegiance

Joshi is also quick to align himself with the right people at the right time. In 2007, it was the then Amritsar MP and BJP firebrand Navjot Singh Sidhu who pressed the BJP high command for the ticket to Joshi from Amritsar West. Those close to Joshi say it was a quid pro quo arrangement, but Joshi fell out with Sidhu before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Ironically, thus, it was Joshi who first demanded openly that senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley be made the BJP candidate replacing Sidhu.

By that time, Joshi's proximity with SAD's Bikram Singh Majihita and the local Akalis was the talk of the town and beyond. But after the polls were over, that honeymoon too was over, and Joshi called for a buoyant BJP to sever ties with the SAD. Such was his rhetoric that he compared the coalition government to Mughal emperor Aurangzeb's rule, despite his party and him being a part of it for years!

The buzz was that he was directly hooked to the party bigwigs in Delhi by that time, and verbalising the desires of an aggressive BJP after it won a landslide victory in the Lok Sabha polls. Even when Jaitley lost, Joshi submitted his resignation as minister to the party, but it was not accepted.

A new turn has come now. Once considered the right hand man of state BJP president Kamal Sharma, Joshi is clearly not on a smooth wavelength with him after the Tarn Taran incident, which has been dubbed "Joshi's personal issue" by the party.

Bad handling of issues

Despite all his savvy, Joshi faltered in handling the case of dual votes against him and his family, who were found to be registered as voters in Tarn Taran as well as in Amritsar. He went after the advocates who had raised the issue, and attacks on them were seen as being at his behest. He failed to follow up the matter in the Election Commission, and it is now in court.

On the issues of property tax, advance tax on traders, and imposition of change-of-land-use (CLU) charges on properties in civic body limits, Joshi took on the Punjab government, particularly deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal. The government accepted his demands, but the manner in which Joshi took them up was not liked by many. He talked at public forums about issues that the SAD wanted to discuss behind closed doors.

Dharna man

He remains quick to threaten protest to push his way through. In his previous tenure as MLA, Joshi sat on a dharna against the then Amritsar police commissioner Kunwar Partap Singh and got him transferred for acting tough against his supporters. Recently, when his brother was assaulted, he threatened to go on dharna in case the government failed to arrest the assaulters.

Joshi, obviously, described himself differently: "I am a friend of friends. I stick to my words. And I am a true soldier of the party."

About the controversies, he says, "In politics, the faster you rise the more enemies you make. That is exactly the case with me." gurpreet.nibber@hindustantimes.com

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