Chandra Prakash Joshi is a leader who answers his own calls despite being busy. A down to earth person, he brooks no nonsense or fear confrontation for a just cause.
A tall leader and an old hand in Rajasthan, Joshi, 64, was not known much outside the state till he became part of Rahul Gandhi’s select coterie. An admirer of Ernesto Che Guevara, an Argentine revolutionary, guerrilla leader, in his younger days Joshi aped Che’s looks of long locks and a beard.
Joshi was born into a schoolteacher’s family in Kunwaria, Rajsamand district, on July 29, 1950. He did his masters in physics and a doctorate in psychology besides earning a bachelors degree in law. Unlike many of his peers, Joshi is techno-friendly and is adept and keen on social media.
Joshi is not the typical old-time Congressman. He doesn’t mince words while giving his opinion, nor does he avoid questions. He is considered frank and fair with a clean image.
Many believe Rahul likes him for his straight batting. He holds a double masters (in physics and psychology) and a degree in law, apart from a PhD in psychology.
In 2009, Dr Joshi got elected for the first time to the Lok Sabha from Bhilwara and landed the important portfolio of rural development and panchayati raj ministry, which handled the Rs 80,000 crore-plus budget to push the Congress’s aam-aadmi agenda. He also held the additional charge of railways for sometime.
In 2003 Assembly, after the Congress was routed by the BJP in Rajasthan, the party was looking for a new state unit chief. Joshi was a strong contender but lost out because of his image as an abrasive hard-liner.
The disappointment forced him into a serious attempt at a makeover. Those close to him say that in 2007 just before the next Assembly polls, he met Sonia Gandhi and told her: “I am the same aggressive leader but I have come to talk about the party.”
What he told Sonia changed his political luck forever and catapulted him into the big league.
Sources close to him say Joshi met Sonia Gandhi and showed her how nominating two heavyweight state Congressmen again and again, is not helping the party.
His analysis of those two traditional Congress seats where the party had been winning since 20 years, showed that the party was losing base and the seats were seen to be going out of the party’s hand.
He explained to the Congress High Command that the actual vote percentage was not increasing in proportion to the increase in constituency size and the local voting pattern, and that was what caught Rahul’s attention. Joshi had predicted way back in 2003 elections that the party was fast losing its support base. He shares his penchant for numbers and analysis with Rahul.
He took over as state Congress chief in 2007.
In 2008 as the state Congress president, he headed the campaign for Assembly polls and ensured back to back victory for the party in both Assembly and subsequent Lok Sabha polls. An forceful and efficient administrator, he lead the party to victory in 2008, trouncing Raje and reducing her to 78 seats from 120 in 2003.
Joshi openly backed younger leaders at the state level and gave tickets to many fresh entrants in both the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. He had then angered many senior leaders with his plan to clamp an age bar on Assembly candidates that was later dropped.
Joshi, however, has never been one to fear conflicts. Almost throughout his career, he has been seen as somewhat belligerent and brusque, whether working at the grassroots or arguing furiously in the Assembly.
Most consider him an open, uncomplicated man with a large mass base. He answers his own calls although he avoids meeting anybody at home. He loves coloured and striped kurtas unlike most politicians.
Joshi first contested the Assembly polls in 1980 from Nathdwara, winning two consecutive elections with huge margins. His political career took off in earnest in 1998 when Gehlot handpicked him to stave off a rival. Joshi is said to be having a running rivalry with Gehlot now, although both politicians shrug it off as mere media speculation.
He served in the state cabinet from 1998 to 2003, holding important portfolios such as education, panchayati raj, rural development, public health engineering, policy planning and information technology.
His loss of the Nathdwara seat by a single vote in 2008 was eye-raising and cost him the state’s Chief Ministership.
But his strategy to work on 10 Janpath for years, augured well for him. He was given the ticket to fight for the 2009 Lok Sabha seat from Bhilwara. He won the seat by 1.35 lakh votes.
For one who started his career under the leadership of former Congress chief minister Mohanlal Sukhadia, Joshi became a rising star in New Delhi as Rahul went about rearranging, redistributing, challenging and changing the power structure within the party.
Joshi has been in politics since the early 1970s and was a member of the Rajasthan assembly for four terms representing his native Nathdwara. He was earlier a teacher.
He also trounced controversial IPL czar Lalit Modi in the race fro presidentship of Rajasthan Cricket Association in December 2009. Joshi, was then magnanimous in victory. He had said then: “Mr Modi congratulated me, I reciprocated and said we would sit together to provide a good atmosphere for cricket here,” he said. “There will be no politics in cricket.”
In the last five years, he has got some plum assignments within the party set-up. He headed the screening committee for the Gujarat assembly election of 2012.
He has also been a minder of West Bengal, Bihar and Assam.