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Manohar Joshi (1937-2024): The rise and fall of Sena’s first CM

Updated on: 24 February,2024 06:51 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dharmendra Jore |

From being appointed CM in the first Sena-BJP government to being booed off stage at Shivaji Park, it’s a career that saw everything

Manohar Joshi (1937-2024): The rise and fall of Sena’s first CM

Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi. Pic/Sameer Markande

Key Highlights

  1. Manohar Joshi was the Shiv Sena’s first chief minister
  2. To have a Brahmin as chief minister was unconventional in Maharashtra’s politics
  3. It was said that Thackeray senior wanted Joshi’s blood relative to be the chief minister

Manohar Joshi, who passed away on Friday, was the Shiv Sena’s first chief minister. To have a Brahmin as chief minister was unconventional in Maharashtra’s politics, but then again, Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray loved making such surprise moves. 

It was said that Thackeray senior wanted Joshi’s blood relative, also a Shiv Sena MLA, to be the chief minister but the plan changed at the 11th hour.

Joshi was loyal to Thackeray senior and was lucky enough to enjoy positions of power in the later stages of his career. Joshi’s career flourished during the Shiv Sena and BJP alliance in Maharashtra and New Delhi.

Former Shiv Sena chief, the late Bal Thackeray, applies Holi colour on the late Manohar Joshi during a celebration at his residence. Pic/Getty Images Former Shiv Sena chief, the late Bal Thackeray, applies Holi colour on the late Manohar Joshi during a celebration at his residence. Pic/Getty Images 

The passing away of the party chief in 2012 gave the Sena a new unilateral leadership in the form of Uddhav Thackeray, who had his own structure of associates and advisers. Joshi and Uddhav did not enjoy a very cordial relationship, perhaps because the former had described the latter as a mild leader. By then, Uddhav’s estranged cousin Raj and some senior leaders like Narayan Rane had quit to weaken the Sena. 

Booing incident

Joshi’s remark, apparently made in a media interview, had upset Shiv Sainiks so much, that they booed him at the party’s 2013 Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park. Joshi had to step down from the dais to leave the rally in full view of Uddhav, who was seen calming Sena workers who had once celebrated Joshi as a loyal Sainik-turned-CM. Uddhav had been in command of the party for almost six-seven years and was accepted by Sainiks, notwithstanding comparisons with his late father and Raj. Half a dozen years later, Uddhav was sworn in as the CM at Shivaji Park in a power pact with the Congress and its offshoot NCP. Much before that, Joshi had lost active presence in the Sena organisation.

That Shivaji Park moment brought Joshi more humiliation than his unceremonious exit from the CMO. It was the venue where Bal Thackeray, accompanied by Joshi and many other associates, had founded his political outfit in 1966. Boosted by Thackeray senior’s support and trust, Joshi rose to be the CM three decades later. In the interim, he worked as a city corporator, mayor, legislator, and opposition leader in the Assembly. After the CM's stint, he worked as a Union minister and Lok Sabha speaker during Atal Bihari Vaypayee’s prime ministership. The Sena gave him a full term in Rajya Sabha after a defeat in the Lok Sabha election. The end of the RS term marked the end of Joshi’s reign and the beginning of his detachment from the Sena’s activities because of falling health. 

Joshi's tenure as the CM coined a new term for the power centres that ran the governments indirectly. Bal Thackeray, who consciously stayed away from occupying a seat of an elected representative, gained an identity as the Sena-BJP government’s ‘remote control’ that operated from Matoshree. He wielded the remote control more aggressively and effectively than the national and regional leaders who were blessed with a similar strength of command within their respective parties. It is said that only a few like BJP’s Pramod Mahajan had the guts and skills to negotiate with Thackeray senior. Be it then CM Joshi or his deputy Gopinath Munde (BJP), all mantris and santris had to respect Thackeray’s diktats. It is said that Joshi had almost mastered the skills required to convince the Sena supremo, but before he could get cracking for the second term, a real estate scam involving his son-in-law gave Joshi’s detractors and party boss an opportunity to send him packing.

Joshi, despite being a native of Raigad district, was considered a die-hard Shivaji Park breed of Marathi Mumbaikar. Popularly known as Sir because he founded a technical/vocational school ‘Kohinoor’ and spread its branches across the state. He ventured into the real estate business later. Mostly handled by his son, the real estate business was talked about because of partnerships with the people ‘Matoshree’ might not have approved of in the later stages.  

Joshi’s CM stint will be known for the public infrastructure that was aimed at catering to Mumbai’s needs. Bal Thackeray had backed then-PWD minister Nitin Gadkari’s vision of building flyovers, via-ducts, a Bandra-Worli-Andheri sealink and an expressway to Pune; 55 flyovers were built then. Some were inaugurated after the Sena-BJP lost power.

Tried to build bridges

On the political side, Joshi did try to build bridges between the estranged saffron partners and Uddhav and Raj. Joshi was sacked as the CM, but he did not lose faith in the leadership of the Sena founder. He worked sincerely as others left the party. Raj’s exit did upset Joshi. He did try to build a bridge between the estranged cousins. Joshi was witness to yet another big split in the Sena after Chhagan Bhujbal, Raj and Rane broke away when he was in the thick of action. This time around, he could just be a mere spectator.  

Year Joshi’s term as CM ended

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