No party for old politicians

Even if they belong to the same generation, septuagenarians Manohar Joshi and Ram Naik, two successful politicians who have served Mumbai and Maharashtra in different capacities, are now suffering the pre-retirement blues. While Naik has decided not to contest the next Lok Sabha elections, Joshi appears to have been pushed towards the decision by his party bosses.

Mumbai cannot ignore either, with their involvement in some of the city’s major political developments. But it’s imperative to accept that advance in age comes with limitations, not only physical, but also political. Politics is now a demanding, even exhausting field, with frustration rife in the younger generation and expectations of the people rising high.

Naik’s announcement that he would not contest the Lok Sabha polls will not surprise many, who know that he has been sidelined in party affairs several times in the recent past. Of late, Naik has been in political hibernation, after two successive defeats in 2004 and 2009 elections. In his hey days, Naik won five elections — to the Lok Sabha from 1989 to 1999, and to the state assembly from 1978 to 1984.

The young guns at BJP seem to be finding it difficult to adjust to Naik, in a political scenario that has changed drastically over the years. But it cannot be ignored that he was for long the party’s face in north Mumbai, the part of the city that has enjoyed exponential growth in the past few decades.

In the 80s, he was a member of the fierce league of BJP MLAs, along with his colleagues Ram Kapse, Premkumar Sharma, Anna Joshi, Ramdas Nayak and others. The group of 13 BJP MLAs used to take the Assembly by storm on issues of public concern. Theirs was an aggressive band of brothers that the Congress had a tough time tackling.

Though he was member of the Vajpayee government between 1999 and 2004, he lost touch with the electorate slowly. His style of working lost takers among the younger generation of the BJP and their voters. While he was most vocal on suburban railway issues, he preferred to confine himself to north Mumbai, even when he was n charge of the Railway Ministry.

Due to reasons best known to them, Naik could not get along with most of his party men from north Mumbai. The northern stretch spread between Goregaon and Vasai-Virar saw incredible growth, and almost simultaneously, BJP leaders started differing. This time, assuming that the party may not field him for the coming Lok Sabha elections, Naik rather gracefully announced his retirement.

Manohar Joshi, who served the city as its mayor, as the president of Mumbai Cricket Association, the state as its chief minister, member of the union cabinet and Speaker of Lok Sabha, is now sulking. He is upset with the Shiv Sena leadership’s plan to field BMC standing committee chief Rahul Shewale from the Mumbai South Central constituency, which he represented between 1999 and 2004. Joshi was also denied a Rajya Sabha berth by the Shiv Sena leadership in April last year. Before that, he was member of the state council between 1972 to 1989 and state assembly from 1990 to 1999. He had to make a backdoor entry to Parliament in 2006 because of his defeat in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.

Joshi seems to have forgotten that the party boss Uddhav Thackeray has slowly forced retirement upon all the senior leaders and started grooming a second rank leadership of his choice. Sena leaders active with the late Bal Thackeray have either passed into oblivion, or have been forced to take a back seat. This could be in tune with the changes apparent in other parties, where the younger generation is fast replacing the elder.

Joshi is known for his shrewdness and reach in all the political parties. No other leader from the party knew Thackeray better than him. But, he was gradually alienated within party circles. Before confronting Shewale, he had disagreements with Sanjay Raut, Rajya Sabha member and editor of the Sena mouthpiece Saamana.

Joshi was once a link between Thackeray Senior and the Congress stalwarts. His closeness to NCP chief Sharad Pawar helped him occupy the coveted chair of MCA chief. His proximity to MNS chief Raj Thackeray and their interests in real estate is no secret. Shiv Sena is still bristling over its defeat in its stronghold Dadar to MNS. Being the dynamic and versatile leader that he has been, Joshi should have known he had it coming.

— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY¬†

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