Here is a story of a true warrior who crafted a successful life through unusual trials and tribulations. He once basked in glory as premier of state. He became the first saffron chief minister of Maharashtra and later elevated to prestigious post of Loksabha speaker. He is none other than Mr Manohar Joshi popularly known as ‘Sir’ talked at length about his diamond studded journey with KYT.
He blanketed Mumbai with his network of coaching classes ‘ Kohinoor’ and made successful forays into hospitality and construction business too. This multi-faceted person who came up through throes of poverty indeed shined like ‘Kohinoor’ diamond with sheer hardwork and determination. Today at 80, he speaks with same vigour and passion defying his age.
The BJP-Shiv Sena coalition when toppled the mighty Congress from its comfortable perch, Manohar Joshi sworn in as CM( Chief Minister) of Maharashtra in the presence of mammoth crowd. He was an automatic choice for his mentor the Sena Supremo Mr. Balasaaheb Thackeray.
Mr.Manohar Joshi the handsome CM-in waiting, walked up the podium sporting saffron feta, a typical Maratha headgear popularized by Shivaji Maharaj acknowledged a tumultuous welcome accorded by blaring of trumpets and beating of drums. The aura was inculcated through numerous fights with life.
Born in a small village Nandvi, Kokan into a family of limited means Mr. Joshi had a tough time. ‘Bapu’ his father was a priest in the village. For most of times his father used to be paid in kind a normal fashion of that era. Joshi had six siblings it was difficult for his father to meet both ends then. “I rarely remember days when vegetables were served to supplement the usual fare. Since, our family owned cows, we relied heavily on milk for our nutrition”, recalls Mr.Joshi.
Mr. Manohar Joshi says as my mother’s name is ‘Saraswati’ I was destined to love studying. He completed his basic education and migrated to Mumbai in search of better future at the age of 17. Despite enduring hardships and insults, he never faltered in his dogged march towards the dream of making his mark in Mumbai. Since, fifth grade he was in the process of earning and learning simultaneously to support his further education. He knew education is the key to success. Meanwhile along with his brother he tried hands at many businesses but unfortunately they didn’t work.
Starting as a peon in private tuition class, he had advanced to become a petty municipal clerk and then was promoted to lead the civic body. However, destiny had much more for him in store, as he became the mayor of the richest civic body of the country.
As teaching is highly respected profession, he started his own classes. Mumbai proved to be huge and enchanting playing field to match Manohar’s energies and ingenuity.
He opened doors to his own training institute on December 7, 1961 by the name of ‘Kohinoor coaching classes’. It is a spectacular success story which mushroomed in all major suburbs of Mumbai. A Kohinoor institute bang opposite railway station or bus depot had become a common scene in Mumbai.
Though first year they incurred a loss but still he went ahead to fulfil a long-cherished dream that of buying a four-wheeler which actually turned to be the turning point of his life. Had he not bought this car perhaps he would have never been able to meet late Balasaaheb Thackeray.
There is an interesting story behind how Mr. Joshi met Sena Supremo Balasaaheb Thackeray. Balasaaheb Thackeray had organised a rally in Shaniwar Wada in Pune. Thackeary wanted to take his younger brother Shrikant along with him but had no space in the car. So, he called Yashwant Padhye who used to write series in Thackeray’s weekly ‘Marmik’. Padhye called Joshi for help and he readily agreed to drive the Sena leader.
Joshi tuned well with Balasaaheb. He started going to their rallies and public meetings. Shortly after the two got to know each other better, Thackeray received an invitation for a talk from a town of Raigad district. He asked Joshi who hailed from the same area to accompany him. As they walked up the stage at the rally, Thackeray whispered to him that he should also address the meeting. Joshi tried to wiggle out of the ordeal but the chief relented.
When his turn came, Joshi spoke confidently like a long time follower of Shiv Sena. Thackeray looked appreciatively at his find who was not only a devoted worker but a star speaker.
Manohar flanged himself full heartedly into teaching in his institute which was expanding rapidly. He would often teach 14 periods and return home dry-throated and hoarse. Later he laid a firm foundation for a secure and solid economic future by entering into construction business. He was famous for delivering houses before time. One building in one year was his principle.
He dared to start first 4 star hotels ‘Kohinoor Continental’ in Mumbai near airport. Later came up with a 3 star hotel adjoining to the earlier one.
By the time of Shiv Sena was one year old, Joshi was increasingly becoming close confidante of Balasaaheb Thackeray. He saw him as a populist who was moved by the plight of the common man and threw himself on his side with all his energy and talent. Compared to ivory-tower thinkers hypocrites, I found Thackeray’s concern for the deprived masses around him more courageous and refreshing, admits Joshi.
While Joshi was deeply involved in Sena politics, he saw to it that he did not neglect his business and was always on the lookout for opportunities. He had realised that Marathi-speaking sons of the soil must hone skills to make themselves employable. Given their dire financial conditions, they could not afford to spend several years in schooling. Understanding the plight, he started technical institute which gave short courses to produce turners, fitters and electricians. This made Marathi youth find space in the industry.
Sena contested municipality elections in 1968. Joshi played a vital role in the victory by not only winning his own seat but by organising an army of volunteers from his constituency of Dadar. It was time to choose the leader of opposition and Thackeray chose Joshi.
As Mr Joshi was literally riding a successful wave in politics as well as business, his opponent were not going to rest as well. They dished out slew of allegations against him, tarnishing his image as jeopardising his political career too. However, he withstood them and eventually became the lok sabha speaker.
One of Joshi’s remarkable achievements was his meticulous cultivation of the trust of bureaucracy. Without their cooperation, even the most pious intentions and effective policies would remain unimplemented, says Joshi.
Joshi knew the power of media-be it press, radio or TV. He held a press conference every Tuesday after the cabinet meetings.
His most remarkable work during his tenure was Mumbai-Pune Expressway and flyovers in Mumbai. This changed the commuting drastically. Later he took charge as Loksabha speaker and also pursued doctorate in political science. At the age of 80, he is still raring to go and may also give a complex to the younger generation of today.