MUMBAI: Senior Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi credited today former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for becoming the Lok Sabha Speaker when the BJP-led government was in power at the Centre.
Joshi, a former Lok Sabha MP from Mumbai, said he could occupy the prestigious post only due to the support of the then Prime Minister Vajpayee, who died today.
"I thought it was impossible to become the Lok Sabha Speaker. I never thought about it. But the BJP, especially Vajpayee's stand, helped me.
"Had he not taken that firm stand, I would not have become the Speaker. Not just that, I could reach the position of Chief Minister of Maharashtra due to the BJP's and Vajpayee's support," Joshi told a Marathi news channel.
The 80-year-old was the Speaker of the Lok Sabha from 2002 to 2004 during the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, in which his party was a partner.
He was Chief Minister of Maharashtra from 19951999, the first Sena leader to occupy the post.
Asked how was the BJP responsible for him assuming the post of Chief Minister in 1995, Joshi said, "Whenever such a big decision is taken in a party, it is taken by the party chief.
"He gets the first credit. Those who helped me get the post included the BJP as well. I said it (credited Vajpayee) in that context."
Recalling his interactions with the BJP stalwart, Joshi said he was friendly with everybody and though Sena founder the late Bal Thackeray and Vajpayee were poles apart in nature, the common factor between them was their funny streak and poetic mind.
"He has proved that a man can reach great heights but still stay humble," the Sena leader said, paying rich tributes to the former prime minister.
Vajpayee was sensitive in nature but at the same time, ensured that responsibility towards the country was not forgotten and work was made a lively process, the Sena stalwart said.
"Vajpayee ji was good with everybody despite his stature. This ensured that the Sena-BJP alliance remained intact for 25 years," he said.
"Vajpayee was a leader who had the ability to overcome difficulties. He was a man who never hurt others. I have interacted with him several times, heard his speech. He was a different man," Joshi said.