10 May 2002

Manohar Joshi not new to controversy

10 May 2002
The Times of India

Joshi not new to controversy


NEW DELHI: If Shiv Sena leader and Union industries minister Manohar
Joshi is elected Speaker of the Lok Sabha, it will be for the first
time that a politician indicted by a commission of inquiry for
fuelling communal violence on innocent citizens and accused by a high
court of being party to an illegal land deal makes it to the coveted

It will also be the first time that a Speaker will be ‘‘remote
controlled'' by another politician.

When Joshi was chief minister of Maharashtra, Shiv Sena supremo Bal
Thackeray frequently boasted of his powers to ‘‘remote control'' his
nominee. On Wednesday, Joshi acknowledged that even as Speaker he
would be subject to Thackeray's manipulation.

Colourless but controversial, Joshi rose to national prominence during
the Bombay riots of 1993 when he was widely seen as instigating
attacks by Shiv Sena supporters on innocent Muslims.

As chief minister of Maharashtra, he dropped all criminal charges
against Thackeray and tried his best to scuttle the Srikrishna
Commission of inquiry into the riots but was unsuccessful.

His apprehensions were well-founded since the Commission did not mince
words in indicting him for his role: ‘‘The attitude of the Shiv Sena
as reflected in a Time interview given by Thackeray and its doctrine
of ‘retaliation' as expounded by (Madhukar) Sarpotdar and (Manohar)
Joshi... were responsible for the Sainiks vigilantism. Because some
criminal Muslims killed innocent Hindus in one corner of the city, the
Shiv Sainiks ‘retaliated' against several innocent Muslims in other
corners of the city''.

When the report came out, Joshi, as chief minister, rejected its
findings and consigned it to the administrative equivalent of the
dustbin. Srikrishna's findings, he told the assembly, were ‘‘biased,
anti-Hindu and pro-Muslim''.

Shortly thereafter, Joshi was to have another brush with Justice
Srikrishna, but this time, he was unable to raise the ‘‘anti-Hindu''

In March 1999, the Bombay High Court criticised Joshi for abusing his
powers as chief minister of Maharashtra in order to sell a plot of
land in Pune originally earmarked for a school. The beneficiary was an
outfit controlled by his builder son-in-law, Girish Vyas.

The court said Joshi had ‘‘pressurised officials'' to clear the
illegal deal and rejected his protestations of innocence.

‘‘We do not expect a chief minister to file an affidavit like a
pettifogging official to mislead the court'', a Bench consisting of
Justices Parkar and Srikrishna stated sternly. Stung by their ruling,
Joshi quit his seat in the legislative assembly.

A month earlier, he had already been stripped of his chief
ministership by Thackeray thanks to infighting within the Sena.

As Speaker, Joshi will frequently be called upon to rule on
accusations that MPs have used unparliamentary language.

However, in his deposition before the Srikrishna Commission, he
defended the use of the offensive term ‘landya' to describe Muslims in
the Sena mouthpiece Saamna, even though he acknowledged the word was
likely to cause hurt.

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