Mani Shankar Aiyar
|Minister of Panchayati Raj|
23 May 2004 – 22 May 2009
|Prime Minister||Manmohan Singh|
|Preceded by||Ministry created|
|Succeeded by||C. P. Joshi|
|Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas|
23 May 2004 – 29 January 2006
|Prime Minister||Manmohan Singh|
|Preceded by||Ram Naik|
|Succeeded by||Murli Deora|
|Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports|
29 January 2006 – 6 April 2008
|Preceded by||Oscar Fernandes, MoS (I/C)|
|Succeeded by||M. S. Gill, MoS (I/C)|
|Minister for Development of North Eastern Region|
24 October 2006 – 22 May 2009
|Preceded by||Paty Ripple Kyndiah|
|Succeeded by||Bijoy Krishna Handique|
|Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha for Mayiladuturai|
|Preceded by||K. Krishnamoorthy|
|Succeeded by||O. S. Manian|
|Preceded by||E.S.M. Packeer Mohamed|
|Succeeded by||P. V. Rajendran|
|Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha|
22 March 2010 – 21 March 2016
|Born||10 April 1941|
Lahore, Punjab, British India
(present-day Punjab, Pakistan)
|Political party||Indian National Congress|
|Spouse||Suneet Vir Singh (aka Suneet Mani Aiyar)|
|Relations||Swaminathan Aiyar (brother)|
|Residence(s)||Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu|
|Alma mater||St. Stephen's College, Delhi (BA)|
Trinity Hall, Cambridge (BA, MA)
Mani Shankar Aiyar (born 10 April 1941) is an Indian politician and former career civil servant diplomat. He is a member of the Indian National Congress Party.
He represented the Mayiladuthurai constituency of Tamil Nadu in the 10th Lok Sabha, 13th Lok Sabha, and 14th Lok Sabha. He was a nominated member of parliament from Rajya Sabha.
Mani Shankar Aiyar is the son of Vaidyanatha Shankar Aiyar, a chartered accountant, and Bhagyalakshmi Shankar Aiyar. He was born in Laxmi Mansions, Lahore in British India, which as post-Partition refugee property, became house for the family of Saadat Hassan Manto. His older brother is the journalist, Swaminathan Aiyar. He lost his father at age 12 in an air crash.
He attended Welham Boys' School, The Doon School and obtained B.A. in economics from St. Stephen's College, Delhi, University of Delhi. While at Doon, he was an editor of The Doon School Weekly. After the loss of his father, Aiyar's mother had to negotiate with Doon to allow him to continue his studies with reduced fees and in return she taught at the school.
He graduated in economics from Delhi University, and then did a two-year B.A. in Tripos in economics at Trinity Hall, Cambridge at the University of Cambridge which, in the Oxbridge tradition, became an M.A. with the passage of time. He was a member of Trinity Hall. He was also an active member of the Marxist Society in Cambridge. At Cambridge, Aiyar joined student politics and once even tried to win a presidential contest. Rajiv Gandhi, who was his junior both at Doon and Cambridge, supported him in his campaign.
He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1963 and served as Joint Secretary to Government of India from 1982 to 1983 in Ministry of External Affairs and later as Joint Secretary at Prime Minister's Office from 1985 to 1989. He resigned from service in 1989 to take up a career in politics and media, entering the Parliament as a Congress MP from Mayiladuthurai in 1991, 1999 and 2004 but was defeated in 1996, 1998, 2009 and 2014. He spent some time in Pakistan posted as a diplomat, serving as India's first consul-general in Karachi from 1978 to 1982.
He is a special invitee to the Congress Working Committee and was a chairman of both the party's political training department and the department of policy planning and coordination. He is also a well-known political columnist and has written several books, including Pakistan Papers and Remembering Rajiv, and has edited a four-volume publication, Rajiv Gandhi's India.
His special interests include grassroots democracy, Indian foreign policy particularly with India's neighbouring countries, and West Asia and nuclear disarmament.
He was married on 4 January 1973 to Suneet Vir Singh, a Sikh woman. They have 3 daughters – the eldest, Suranya Aiyar is a lawyer; the second, Yamini Aiyar is a senior research fellow and director of the Accountability Initiative;
Aiyar is the uncle of Vidya Shankar Aiyar, former anchor on Channelnews asia and CNN- IBN.
In 2000, Aiyar was involved in a public brawl with politician Amar Singh. According to Singh, Aiyar insulted Singh's then party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and remarked: "Oh that bloody Mulayam – he looks just like me. It could be because my father visited Uttar Pradesh at some point. Why don't you check with Mulayam's mother?"
While on a tour of the Andamans as the Cabinet Minister in the later part of 2004, Aiyar was quoted as saying at the Cellular Jail there that there was no difference between Hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar and Pakistan's founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah as they shared a 'divisive' philosophy. He also ordered that a plaque with a poem commemorating Savarkar be replaced with a plaque with quotes from Mahatma Gandhi. Reports of the incident paralysed Parliament and led to agitations by the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. Aiyar's remarks created confusion as well in the ruling party; the official spokesman, Anand Sharma, noted that the Congress Party did not consider Savarkar either a freedom fighter or a patriot. A few days later, the Prime Minister dissociated himself and the cabinet from that view.
In September 2011, Aiyar visited his alma mater—St. Stephen's College—to speak about 'Governance and Corruption: Is Panchayati Raj A Solution?'. However, he began to mock the Hansraj College and its former student Ajay Maken. He also belittled the Kirori Mal College and the BA (Programme) Degree, a course in the University of Delhi. This led to an agitation by the students of Hansraj College. When the agitated students approached him, he mocked them even further. When later questioned by the media, Aiyar refused to apologise and rather ridiculed the institutions even further. Baffled by his remarks, Stephen's College and its students went on to apologise to Hansraj College and extended a hand of friendship.
He in an interview days before the run up to the 2014 Parliament elections in India, said that a tea seller (The Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi of the BJP) can never become the Prime Minister of India, but can sell tea in AICC meetings. His comment was disowned by the congress saying it's his personal view and not the party's view. Rahul Gandhi asked him not to make personal attacks.
Mani Shankar Aiyer justified November 2015 Paris attacks as a response to France banning Hijab. He also justified Charlie Hebdo shooting as a backlash for the death of Muslims. His comments were disapproved by his own party members.
He sparked a political firestorm when he called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a "neech aadmi", which PM Modi interpreted as nichli jaati (lower caste). Subsequently, he was temporarily suspended from the party's primary membership. Aiyar said the comments by the PM showed his "low-level mindset and one bereft of any manners". He further justified his remarks on Modi by adding "Yes, I called Modi 'neech' but did not mean it as a low-born; I meant it as low".
Aiyar has written seven books –