Thus spake Sir Joshi
The Shiv Sena had to sacrifice one of its seniormost and dynamic leaders when Mr. Manohar Gajanan Joshi assumed the prestigious office of the speaker of the 13th Lok Sabha last week. The third Maharashtrian to become Speaker, Mr. Joshi is an old hand at legislative affairs. He has played this game for the past few decades in the civic corporation, in the state legislature and the Lok Sabha. Credited to be an ideal candidate for the post because of his balanced views, good sense of humour and the rapport he shares with all MPs, Mr. Joshi is, however, already being referred in Delhi's political circles as the 'remote-controlled' speaker. RENU MITTAL corners this friendly speaker 'Sir' in Delhi barely a week since he took up the hot seat in Parliament.
The new Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi's bio-data has a motto which says "If you work, luck will work for you..."
Lady Luck certainly appears to have smiled and that too broadly, on the 64-year-old Maharashtra leader who has suddenly been catapulted into the national limelight having won the race for the prestigious post of the Lok Sabha Speaker. After being mayor of Mumbai, opposition leader in the Maharashtra legislative assembly, chief minister of Maharashtra and Union minister for heavy industry, Mr. Joshi takes over the Lok Sabha at a difficult time when the communal Hindutva agenda of the ruling BJP and the communal riots in Gujarat have split the polity down the middle.
His party the Shiv Sena's Hindutva agenda is even more pronounced than the BJP's but Joshi has promised to remain neutral and above party politics as he gets down to the brasstacks of managing a difficult House. Particularly since the Congress, the Left and other opposition parties are deeply cut up about his elevation as the Speaker.
He is already being referred to by opposition political parties as the "remote controlled Speaker" a pointed reference to Bal Thackeray's tendency to call the shots, even long distance. However, Mr. Joshi clarifies his position and makes it clear that he is not going to be "remote-controlled" by anyone. Excerpts from the interview:
You have taken over when there is visible acrimony in the House over the ruling party's Hindutva agenda and the communal violence in Gujarat. How do you propose to manage the show?
There are apprehensions that on key issues you may have to go back to Mr. Thackeray to get his clearance. Comment?
How do you feel about the repeated reference to "remote control". Can you not get rid of such a tag?
Since there had been no consensus on your name, do you foresee rough weather between you and the opposition?
What would be your priorities. Do you see yourself contributing to issues which past Speakers may not have done?
There are reports that the Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan was not happy with your elevation as Speaker. Do you think you will have problems working with him?
There is a growing conflict between the BJP's Hindutva agenda (which is similar to the Sena's agenda) and the rest of the NDA allies who want to play it down. How do you see this situation developing?
What you are talking about is an ideal situation. But, what is actually happening on the ground?
But, does it exist?
Can we say that as long as you are in the Speaker's chair you would shed your Hindutva agenda and not make your political programmes a part of your Speakership?
It would not be wrong to call this the crowning glory of your political career. Is there anything you are looking at beyond this which remains unfulfilled?
Are there any fulfilled ambitions?
Speculation has started about who would be the next president of India. The Shiv Sena is backing Dr. P. C. Alexander the present Governor of Maharashtra. How would you react to Mr. K. R. Narayanan continuing for a second term?