New Delhi, July 6: Narendra Modi’s old rival from the Sangh parivar is back in Delhi.
Sanjay Joshi says he has returned to pursue “sakriya rajniti” (active politics), although nobody in the BJP quite knows what the phrase denotes in the Modi regime.
Joshi, once a fairly powerful general secretary in charge of the organisation, was thrown out of the party’s national executive under Modi’s pressure in May 2012 and then eased out of the BJP.
He proclaimed his return to Delhi on the Sangh’s latest and favourite medium, Twitter. “Yes, I am in the BJP because I am a BJP worker,” Joshi told The Telegraph.
Asked what course he would adopt in “active politics” when he was out of the BJP’s power structures, he said: “Let’s see. But I am here to stay.”
Joshi’s serial tweets show he is set to involve himself in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the two states he was put in charge of before he was sacked.
On July 1, he said he visited hospitals in Lucknow and Kanpur where protesters from the BJP’s local youth wings were admitted after getting hurt in police crackdowns.
On May 30, he went to a programme on Rana Pratap in Delhi with Ghaziabad MP V.K. Singh.
A BJP source said the former army chief, a newbie in the party and not rated as a political sharpie, may not have been aware of the tensions that marked the decades-long relationship between Modi and Joshi.
Interestingly, Joshi’s tweets didn’t mention Modi even once. His congratulatory post on May 16, when the Lok Sabha election results were declared, said: “With folded hands, with humility, sincerity and love, we thank every citizen of India. Thank you India.”
He also made it a point to wish every BJP leader, including Jaswant Singh, on their birthday.
After the BJP won the 2013 Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, he wished chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh and prospective chief minister Vasundhara Raje.
Asked if he had called on senior BJP leaders on his return to Delhi, Joshi said: “I do not wish to talk about that.”
Did he phone Prime Minister Modi or write to him?
“No, there is no communication whatsoever,” he emphasised.
Joshi and Modi, who started off as RSS pracharaks and transited to the BJP in Gujarat, lived in the party’s grotty office in the old part of Ahmedabad. But while Modi early on in his political career displayed a penchant for dressing well, Joshi wears crumpled kurtas even today.
Joshi is as soft-spoken as Modi is articulate in a loud way.
They fell apart at the end of a bitter power struggle in the ’90s when the BJP first came to power on its own in Gujarat. Joshi sided with the anti-Keshubhai Patel faction, led by Shankersinh Vaghela, now in the Congress. Modi had then backed Patel, although they became estranged much later.
But the low-key Joshi, who invisibly fired on Modi from Vaghela’s shoulders, won the first round of the battle that saw Patel out as chief minister and Vaghela’s nominee, Suresh Mehta in.
Vaghela and Joshi together ensured that Modi was virtually banished from Gujarat. That was when Modi moved to Delhi.
In 2001, the tables turned and Modi was back as chief minister this time. Armed with a popular mandate, he saw to it that Joshi was out of Gujarat, never to return.
When Nitin Gadkari became BJP president, he dabbled in his quota of “fix Modi” strategies and brought Joshi back in the organisation as a general secretary. In 2012, he put him in charge of the Uttar Pradesh elections.
Modi keenly monitored the BJP’s prospects and once he was reportedly convinced that the party was locked in a tussle with the Congress for third place, he rebuffed the state leaders’ entreaties to campaign.
In May 2012, when the RSS had more or less decided that Modi was the passport to a BJP comeback in Delhi, its chief, Mohanrao Bhagwat, “sacrificed” Joshi, otherwise a parivar favourite.
Joshi lost his place in the national executive and was told not to attend an ongoing executive meeting that month in Mumbai. Modi came for the meeting only after it was certain that Joshi had left the city.
In Delhi, Joshi stayed at the residence of former Bhavnagar MP Rajendrasinh Rana. Once his close associate, Modi never forgave Rana for hosting Joshi. Rana didn’t get a ticket in 2014 and will have to forego his house as well.
Asked where he would stay now, Joshi said: “Let’s see.”