Manohar Joshi: Flying High In Politics, With Feet On The Ground And Passion For Poor


(MENAFN- IANS) Mumbai, Feb 23 (IANS) Few in politics can boast of such a glorious career like Manohar Gajanan Joshi -- who made humble beginnings as Municipal Corporator and went on to become the Maharashtra Chief Minister and later Speaker of Lok Sabha -- but with his feet firmly planted on the ground and a genuine concern for the poor.

Joshi, 86, died after suffering a heart attack around 3 a.m. on Friday (February 23), and his funeral was performed this evening with full state honours.

The politician-cum-academic-cum-businessman and cricket-lover is survived by his wife Anagha and their son Unmesh, two daughters -- Asmita and Namrata, while one of his grand-daughters is the well-known Bollywood actress-filmmaker, Sharvari Wagh.

Born on December 2, 1937 at Nandavi village in Raigad, in the coastal Konkan belt, Joshi was educated in Mumbai and grew up in the city. He even launched his professional and political career here.

Respectfully addressed as 'Sir' for his academic background and deep knowledge on various subjects, Joshi was a close confidante of the late Balasaheb Thackeray, who founded the Shiv Sena (1966), and Joshi plunged into politics with the party intended for 'sons of the soil'.

In 1968, he was elected a Shiv Sena Municipal Corporator of the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and was elected Mayor of Mumbai for a term (1976-1977).

This was the same civic body where he once worked as an officer in the early 1960s, before quitting for the political career, responding to a call by Balasaheb Thackeray to work for the welfare of the 'Marathi Manoos'.

Despite suffering political setbacks, he stuck to his word and never quit the Shiv Sena, with which he remained till the party split vertically, and he continued with Shiv Sena (UBT) led by Thackeray's son and ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray till he breathed his last on Friday.

Rising steadily up the political rungs, he was nominated as a Member of Legislative Council, then elected an MLA for three terms, completed a term in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, was the Chief Minister (March 1995-January 1999), later made a Union Minister (1999-2002) and then elected Speaker of Lok Sabha (2002-2004) during the regime of the late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with a stint in the Rajya Sabha, and Leader of Opposition in Assembly, too.

His political colleagues and critics described him as "a cool-headed, smiling person, never known to get agitated in any emergency or losing his temper under any provocation, soft-spoken, and an expert at getting any work done through sweet persuasion, while taking everyone along" in all his endeavours.

There were the qualities that helped him immensely when he became the first Brahmin CM of the maiden (undivided) Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government, but after four years in the saddle, he was abruptly removed after his name cropped up a land-scam, and was replaced by a Maratha, Narayan Rane (currently, a BJP union minister).

At that point, he felt hurt and bitter, and in an interview later, had dropped broad hints of a revolt or quitting the Shiv Sena, but the party took note and he was immediately rewarded with higher posts at the Centre.

Harbouring a passion for the poor, after completing his education (M.A. & LL.B.), Joshi started what is billed as India's earliest and finest 'skill development' centres through his Kohinoor Technical Institutes group, in Mumbai and then spreading to different parts of the country. Here, youths were imparted training for skilled, semi-skilled and vocational courses like plumbing, electricians, audio-video technicians, two-wheeler mechanics, etc., that became a rage and helped lakhs of jobless youths get gainful employment, said Bharatiya Kisan Sena and SS-UBT leader Raghunath Kuchik.

"When he was the Speaker, the Verma Commission Report came to him which sought to dilute workers' rights and job security, but without a second thought, Joshi 'saheb' rejected it. He justified saying that labourers are building the nation and it was our duty to empower and safeguard them," said Kuchik.

SS-UBT's National Spokesperson Kishore Tiwari said when Joshi was the CM, in May 1995, he introduced the famous 'Zunkha Bhakar' of Rupee 1 per plate which gave jobs to thousands of unemployed and a decent meal to the poorest of poor.

"It was the front-runner of another major scheme, the 'Shiv Bhojan Thali' of Rs 5, launched in January 2020, by the then CM Uddhav Thackeray. It proved to be a saviour during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown and helped lakhs of poor and migrants survive those harrowing days," said Tiwari.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: ...)

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