The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Speaker pains: chief’s parivar and protocol

Mumbai, June 10: For a change, the Speaker had chosen not to talk. It did not matter, because leaders from both sides of the divide turned up to hear what his pen had to say.

Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi released his book, the Speaker’s Diary, at a glittering function last night, but most of those who crowded the Tata Theatre went back disappointed.

Joshi may have wandered off the beaten track, but he cleverly revealed only that which shows. There is neither dirt nor drama, no light on the fuel behind the fireworks in the lower House, or even the intrigue that lurks in the corridors of Parliament.

The Speaker, it seems, hardly moved out of his chair while penning his thoughts. Written in Marathi — the loyal Shiv Sainik that he is — the book, published by Parchure Prakashan Mandir, is a mundane chronicle of his one year in office.

The only controversial subject he illuminates is the power play and misunderstanding between the young Sena leaders, Uddhav and Raj.

On October 8, 2002, the Diary notes: “I sought an appointment at 1 pm with Balasaheb (Thackeray) and met him at Matoshree (the Sena chief’s Mumbai residence)…. I discussed the differences between Uddhav and Raj with Balasaheb. I insisted the differences must be resolved and told him Uddhav was gradually getting frustrated. The Sena chief was frank as usual. My meeting wasn’t very successful. But since there is never a shortcut to success, I decided to keep my efforts on.”

Writing about another incident, Joshi agonises over the protocol of wishing deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani on his birthday. “I wished him and offered him a bouquet,” he writes, but “the usual protocol issue cropped up. Should I, the Lok Sabha Speaker, go to the deputy PM to wish him' No one could tell me. I did what my conscience said was right. I have a strange mind that delights over small things and aches over smaller ones.”

The only time the Speaker appears to have something negative to say about someone is when he talks about Union minister T.R. Baalu losing his temper at a meeting with municipal officers. At the meeting, Joshi says: “He (Baalu) also raised his voice. I didn’t like that one bit. I felt I must stop the meeting there itself. But since that would have further delayed other issues and others would have had to suffer, I decided to bear it out. But I also felt Baalu’s behaviour was not becoming in the Speaker’s presence.”

Joshi then sheds fleeting light on how the Sena chief functions and recalls the time when Thackeray called him over to discuss the sacking of a Sena leader. “Chief’s (Thackeray’s) word is like a government resolution for us,” writes the man who often has to take the tone of a stern headmaster to quieten loud parliamentarians. “There is never a discussion on it.”

No wonder, Pramod Navalkar said at the gathering — which included Congress chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, BJP leader Pramod Mahajan and Uddhav Thackeray — that “Joshi sir has written the truth but not the complete truth.”

“I can vouch for that,” Maharashtra’s self-styled culture cop said. “It is good if he continues writing but I have one request. In his next book, he should write on the right hand side and leave the pages on the left hand side for me to fill. That way we will get a more complete picture.”

He did get a better picture soon, but about the book. Joshi said he didn’t write “many things” because he wants to remain in politics for some more years.

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