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The Rediff Special / Tara Shankar Sahay
May 04, 2004
The exit polls following Phase II of the general election made the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership jittery.
The exit polls said the National Democratic Alliance, which the BJP leads, would not get to the halfway mark in Parliament.
The party knew if something urgent was not done, all might be lost.
It immediately assigned its top lieutenants to revive the party's fortunes in Uttar Pradesh, which hold the key to who will form the next government at the Centre.
Among those was party general secretary Sanjay Joshi.
But who exactly is Joshi?
Not much is known about him except that he shuns the limelight.
That much was clear at the BJP's Ashoka Road headquarters in New Delhi on July 2, 2002 when Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu succeeded K Jana Krishnamurthy as the party president.
Journalists were curious to know about Joshi, who Naidu had retained from Krishnamurthy's team.
Typically, Joshi, a former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak, did not make an appearance.
He is widely regarded in the Sangh Parivar as the quintessential RSS activist -- a no-nonsense man who sticks to party norms and enforces discipline; someone who excels in organisational skills.
Joshi is also credited with the BJP's victories in the Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh assembly election.
He was the one to spread the Sangh's brand of Hindutva in Gujarat, where he impressed the RSS brass with his diligence.
His detractors in the state -- where he had unquestioned control as the BJP's organising secretary -- tend to categorise him among the dominant Marathi members in the RSS.
"Sanjay Joshi is a dedicated party worker whose organisational skills have been an asset to us," asserts RSS Spokesperson Ram Madhav.
He was completing a bachelor's degree in engineering when he came into contact with the RSS student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, after the Emergency. He later taught at the Datta Meghe Polytechnic in Nagpur.
Joshi, who did social work and was very active in the RSS, visited slums in Nagpur and interacted with the people there. He was very popular with the slum-dwellers and expected to contest the assembly election from West Nagpur. But that never happened.
"He doesn't have political ambitions, and prefers to work for the organisation. He has never asked for any designation or election ticket," says his friend Nitin Gadkari, leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra state assembly.
Joshi became the BJP organising secretary in Gujarat in October 2001, when Narendra Modi, now chief minister, quit the post.
He soon established his credentials when he helped the BJP to victory in 117 assembly seats in 1998 and 20 parliamentary seats a year later.
His political stock zoomed, but he remained elusive, operating from a small cubicle in the BJP's office in Khanpur, Gandhinagar.
He became a national general secretary in October 2001.
Proof of Joshi's influence came when he accompanied Krishnamurthy and senior leader Shashikant 'Kushabhau' Thakre to Gujarat in March 2002 to take stock of the situation in the wake of the riots.
Soon after, Joshi left for Madhya Pradesh to activate RSS cadres to fan out across the state to campaign for the BJP in the assembly election. The BJP won 173 seats in the 230-member House; the Congress, which had ruled the state for 10 years, won only 38 seats.
BJP Today, the party's journal, enthused, 'The silent but efficient management by Sanjay Joshi in Madhya Pradesh gave us the spectacular results.'
On May 4, 24 hours before the third round of polling, the NDTV-Indian Express opinion poll revealed that the BJP will improve its tally in UP. Of the 30 seats up for grabs, the BJP is expected to win 13 -- an improvement of five seats over 1999.
If the party does well in UP, helping the NDA retain power, expect to hear more about Sanjay Joshi.
Image: Dominic Xavier