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Mani Shankar Aiyar’s ire

Congress MP from Rajya Sabha, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar is one of the extraordinary politicians in the present era. His sharp comments and acerbic tongue often lands him in trouble. Whether it was the verbal brawl with Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh or his comparison of Muhammad Ali Jinnah  of Pakistan with Veer Savarkar, he always hit the headlines for the wrong reasons

The latest has been his broadside attack on his own party during the book launch of senior journalist Rashid Kidwai wherein he went to the extent of saying that the Congress party was a “circus” and every Congressman wants to connect with this circus.

Mr  Aiyar said, “only hopeless workers go to 24 Akbar Road, as the powerful in the party have direct access to 10, Janpath (Sonia Gandhi’s residence) or 23, Willingdon Crescent (residence of Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel).”

He further compared the Indian National Congress with a ‘dharamshala’ (free shelter) where people could walk in and out as per their wishes but the party is proud of its diversity.

He then turned his attention to the late P V Narasimha Rao, saying the former PM was to blame for the 1992 demolition of Babri Masjid, as the act occurred when he was in office.

There is no  doubt that the Doon School educated  diplomat turned politician who was at one time late Rajiv Gandhi’s blue eyed boy has gone through many phases of trials and tribulations in his political career and shocked both his foes and friends alike with his one liners. He has spared none in the process. His friends and sympathizers still remember his famous sentence that “Every five years, it is the masses who determine who will form the government. And in between those five years the classes determine what that government will do.”

His friends remember him for another famous bark against K Natwar Singh  on the occasion of St Stephens alumni meet. Mr Singh wrote in the college book that “whatever I am is because of this College”. Mani Shankar Aiyar, just standing behind him, saw Mr Natwar Singh’s praise for the college and wrote “you are what you are. Why blame the College??”

In another instance  Mr Aiyar hit his own party government hardest when he said that “UPA II would be more remembered for dubious deals than daring decisions.”

However, few expected him to be so nasty and belittle his party  in this way however true and harsh the reality would have been. They are still aghast as to how come three terms Congress MP from Mayiladuthurai in Tamil Nadu who had recently been inducted into Rajya Sabha could take the party leadership head on.

However, on a closer analysis, one finds many reasons which could have been responsible for this round of outburst of Mr Aiyar.
There is no doubt that  Mr Aiayar with 26 years in IFS and having served in various countries including Pakistan  has always evoked mixed response  because of his blunt and at times, extremely curt remarks. Also, there is no doubt that he is amongst one of the best draftsmen in the Congress party, quite articulate in his strong views on many issues which defy party line.

At the same time, it is also true that it is the Congress party made him what he is today. Then what compelled him to attack his own government and that too from a public platform??

In this context, the Headlines Today expose on the Prime Minister’s intervention in appointing Kalmadi as the head of Commonwealth games can be linked. The grapevine is that Mr Aiyar was hoping that he would be given a ministerial berth in this round of reshuffle. He passed on the whole set of documents to that TV channel after he was told that he would not get anything.

The tug of war between Kalmadi and Aiyar has been well known and as Minister in UPA I, he had  written many letters to the Prime Minister opposing Kalmadi.  Before him, even later Sunil Dutt had expressed shock and surprise on the way his suggestions were overruled by the PMO and Kalmadi was made the head.  Aiyar kept airing his views on this in TV interviews and his write ups occasionally but he brought out all the fact into public domain only after he was convinced that he would not get a ministry in this round of reshuffle.

Secondly,  his relationship with   Congress President’s Political Advisor Mr Ahmed Patel have been less than cordial and Mr Aiyar always felt that this post was his. It is also true that during P V Narasimha Rao’s regime when most of the Congressmen were scared of calling on Mrs Sonia Gandhi, he was one of the three prominent Congress leaders apart from Arjun Singh and N D Tewari who kept in close touch with 10 Janpath.

However, he found himself sidelined in the wake of the new coterie emerging around 10 Janpath after 1999. It is also well known that Mr Aiyar was not in favour of Congress alliance with DMK during the earlier   assembly  and parliament elections because he always suspected that DMK was  also responsible in some way, in  the killing of late Rajiv Gandhi. But he was in minority as the political compulsions before the Congress party got better of him. He lost last Parliamentary polls miserably and yet he was nominated to Rajya Sabha recently.

While it remains to be see if the Congress High Command would take a serious note of his outburst and initiate any disciplinary action against him yet the fact remains that his observation on the Congress head quarter is more or less true. The 24 Akbar road has indeed lost much of its charm because most of the AICC bearers are not very often seen in the party head quarters and the Congress President does need to initiate many corrective actions to ensure that the Congress workers faith in the party system and machinery does not get eroded.

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