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Modi’s old rival back in Delhi

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 tweets show he is set to involve himself in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the states he had been 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 attended an event in Delhi with Ghaziabad MP V.K. Singh. A BJP source said the former army chief may not have been aware of the frosty relationship between Modi and Joshi.

Joshi’s tweets didn’t mention Modi even once. His congratulatory post on May 16, the day the election results were declared, said: “With folded hands, with humility, sincerity and love, we thank every citizen of India. Thank you India.”

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 said.

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. They fell apart after 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, though they eventually parted ways.

The low-key Joshi 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. Modi, who was back, this time as chief minister, saw to it that Joshi was out of Gujarat, never to return.

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 meeting that month in Mumbai. Modi came for the meeting only after it was certain that Joshi had left the city.

Joshi had earlier been dumped in 2005 after a sleaze video purportedly featuring him was circulated at a party conclave that year. As a lifelong pracharak (whole-timer), Joshi was sworn to celibacy. Later, a forensic probe by Madhya Pradesh police — the recordings were reportedly done in the state — claimed that neither was the man in the video Joshi nor was the voice on the tapes his.

In Delhi, Joshi would stay at the residence of former 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.”