Once running for CM’s post, ‘sidelined’ CP Joshi key to Cong govt in Rajasthan
Before the Rajasthan crisis, Joshi, who studied metallurgy, physics and psychology, had never held such an important Constitutional post.Updated: Jul 22, 2020, 19:19 IST
The irascible professor of psychology and former Central minister, CP Joshi, who thought his political career may end in 2018 Assembly elections if he fails to win the polls, is back in the limelight as the Rajasthan assembly speaker. His decision to issue a disqualification notice to 19 Congress rebel legislators, including former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot, has been challenged by the rebels in the Rajasthan High Court.
In the order on Tuesday evening, the division bench of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta said, “We further request the Hon’ble Speaker to extend the said petition till the delivery of orders by this court on July 24 and we direct accordingly.” Joshi said he was saddened by the use of word “direct” and objected to the court entertaining the petition.
“It is within my powers to issue the notice. There are various Supreme Court judgments which give absolute powers to the Speaker to decide on disqualification of the legislators,” Joshi told reporters on Wednesday morning.
“Nobody can intervene in 10th Schedule powers of the speaker,” he said while announcing that he was moving the apex court against the directions from the Rajasthan High Court to defer hearing on a petition of disqualification by party chief whip Mahesh Joshi against the 19 legislators till July 24.
Before the Rajasthan crisis, Joshi, who studied metallurgy, physics and psychology, had never held such an important Constitutional post. He had been a minister in the Rajasthan government and was a Cabinet minister in United Progressive Alliance-2 government.
Joshi started his political career as president of Mohanlal Sukhadia University (MLSU) students union before he was appointed as an assistant professor for psychology at the Udaipur University. His friends say that Joshi was a fan of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara in college and even kept a beard like the guerrilla leader. “He was a master orator and that impressed many leaders of that ere,” said one of his friends who wasn’t willing to be quoted.
Impressed by his oratory skills, Mohanlal Sukhadia, longest-serving CM of the state and a tall Congress leader from Mewar, inducted him into the Congress party. He denied him ticket from Nathdwara in 1977 saying he was “too” young but gave him an assembly ticket in 1980 when Joshi was of just 28.
Joshi was an MLA for 10 years – from 1980 to 1990 – when the Congress governments in the state were headed by leaders from Mewar. But he never found a place in their cabinets because he was considered to be from the rival Gulab Singh Shekhawat group. Joshi lost the 1990 and 1993 Assembly elections.
“After losing the election, he returned to the university to teach and study. He took classes of PG students and enrolled for PhD,” said Professor Indra Vardhan Trivedi who has known Joshi since their hostel days around four decades ago.
“The routine for 10 years when he was out of Assembly was to come to the university on a bicycle, teach statistics and visit his constituency – Nathdwara – every Sunday,” said Trivedi, who has twice been the vice-chancellor of (MLSU) and was appointed the VC of Govind Guru Tribal University in Banswara this week.
He won the 1998 assembly elections and was inducted as a cabinet minister in the Rajasthan government.
Ten years later, Joshi got the biggest leap of his political career when he was chosen as the president of the Rajasthan Congress before the 2008 Assembly election. The Congress won the state assembly election but Joshi lost, just by a vote. Many of his supporters believe that he lost the fight to become the CM and Ashok Gehlot became the CM again.
“But, by then he got close to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and was made in-charge of several states including Bihar. He contested the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Bhilwara and won,” said Pramod Tiwari, a Bhilwara-based journalist.
Despite being a first-time MP, Joshi was made a cabinet minister in UPA-II and got the all-important rural development ministry, handling the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which was considered the coalition’s ticket to the second term in the government. However, in the middle of UPA-II, he was shifted to the road transport ministry while the rural development ministry was given to Jairam Ramesh.
While serving as a Central minister, Joshi dabbled in cricket politics and became the president of the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) in 2009. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Joshi contested from Jaipur (Rural) and lost to newcomer Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. Since then, Joshi was in political bewilderedness.
As the Congress decided to give tickets to all stalwarts of the party to take on Bharatiya Janata Party in Rajasthan assembly polls of 2018, Joshi was asked to contest from Nathdwara, his political karambhoomi.
During the campaign of 2018 Assembly election, Joshi made a controversial statement that Ram Temple in Ayodhya can be built only by Brahmins - a statement made apparently to woo the large Brahmin population in the constituency. His election pitch hovered around a buzz that Joshi could be the next chief minister if there is an intense fight for the post between Gehlot and Sachin Pilot.
“I am sidelined in the party and my political career is ending,” Joshi told a journalist colleague during the campaign, indicating that he was not sure about his victory also. He won by 16,940 votes defeating BJP’s Mahesh Pratap Singh and was elected as speaker as Pilot and Gehlot fought for the CM’s post. And, this gave him a new innings in politics.
Jaipur-based commentator Prakash Bhandari said Joshi’s tenure as Speaker has been one of the best in terms of political propriety and procedures. “He is like a headmaster in the Assembly and people respect him for that,” Bhandari said.
Political commentator Mukesh Sharma said Joshi is sometimes considered a misfit for politics because of his straightforwardness and bluntness. “When he was the party president, he ruffled many feathers because he called a spade a spade, unlike a politician who would offer assurances even when something was impossible,” he said.
Sharma said even his political opponent respect his knowledge. “I remember when Vasundhara Raje became CM for the first time in 2008, she invited experts from various fields to discuss her vision for the state and get their feedback. CP Joshi was the only one from the Congress in that meeting,” he said.
Bhandari said Joshi, in the coming days, could define Rajasthan’s politics and his name would be there in the history for his role as a Speaker.