Monday Talk: Mani Shankar Aiyar in conversation with Anurag Sason

WATCH | Monday Talk: ‘Gandhis have a quality of picking the toughest challenge,’ says Mani Shankar Aiyar

Supreme Court’s verdict on Ram Temple case is expected this month. Both BJP and Congress have different expectations from the judgment. To talk about Ram Temple and many other important issues in the country, Anurag Sason has an in-depth conversation with veteran Congress leader Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar. He has even worked closely with former and beloved late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Here are important excerpts from the exclusive interview (Scroll down to watch the complete interview)

Q1) Apex court’s decision is expected this month. What are your expectations from the Supreme Court?

Mani Shankar Aiyar: There is one point on which there is an apparent understanding between Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — the Supreme Court’s verdict should be accepted. Whatever the verdict should be, it must not lead to violence. I think that’s a very sensible position to take.

One thing which I want to caution is that one should not try to simplify the verdict. I am expecting a nuance verdict.

Q2) What is more important in the country-Ram Temple, strengthing of economy or employment?

Mani Shankar Aiyar: The fourth thing that you missed out is maintaining the unity of this country based on secularism. The issue in Ayodhya is not the construction of a Ram Temple; it is the maintenance of the secular basis of our unity.

And I hope the judgment will address this fundamental point.

In fact, Rajiv Gandhi’s position was-why not have a grand Ram Temple. But why build it “wahi” (there)? That was the point then. But “wahi” has also been destroyed now. There is no mosque.

Q3) After the LS polls 2019, Mr. Rahul Gandhi resigned from the presidentship of Congress party, do you think it was the right decision?

Mani Shankar Aiyar: Let me first say that when he was the Congress president, I was kept out of the party. And kept totally out of any touch with him. I have not met him in his capacity as a president. I asked him for a meeting, I never had the meeting.

But I do believe in respecting the right of an individual to decide what his life should be like.

Q4) In Uttar Pradesh, Ms. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is very active now. So do you think it will change the chances of the party in a state which sends 80 MPs to the Parliament?

Mani Shankar Aiyar: Well that is, I think, the precise reason why Priyanka decided to launch herself politically by taking on the most difficult challenge that Congress faces. And you might recall that before he became vice president of Congress, Rahul Gandhi also concentrated on taking up the biggest challenge.

And I think it is this quality in them from Gandhi’s time onwards of picking the toughest challenge and saying that we have to overcome this challenge before we address the more soft issues. This is the characteristic of this family and the characteristics of their kind of leadership.

So although the prospects cannot be described as bright, I do admire Ms. Vadra for having decided that she will launch herself not in Punjab where we have a government but taking on the biggest challenge of all which is UP to quote you “which sends 80 members to Parliament.”

Q5) Congress is the grand old party of India. If you have to suggest one or two changes in it, what those will be?

Mani Shankar Aiyar: I would say the single most important reform is the reform that was suggested nearly 35 years ago. And that is the recommendations of the Uma Shankar Dikshit’s report on how to democratize the party and bring about the leadership at the local level, regional level and central level by a process of transparent election.

Q6) In brief, tell us something about your relationship with the former PM of India late Rajiv Gandhi.

Mani Shankar Aiyar: Well most people think that we were school chums but this is completely untrue. He was very junior to me at school. And although we were contemporary at Cambridge, he was at the rich man’s college-Trinity college-and although I was next door to him, it was the poor man’s college-Trinity Hall. And there was no way in which I could keep up with the standard of living of Rajiv and his friends.

We had a very similar view on things because our background was very similar. And we enjoyed conversing with each other.

When I was entering politics Rajiv warned me-“Mani this system will never accept you…” and today 30 years later I can say with confidence that Rajiv Gandhi was absolutely right-the Congress has never accepted me.

[ALSO READ] OPINION |Mani Shankar Aiyar, a politician inspired by Jawaharlal Nehru & Rajiv Gandhi

Q7) As you yourself take a very keen interest in Indian’s foreign policy so I want to ask you this-How you see India’s foreign policy under the present government?

Mani Shankar Aiyar: Other countries have PM-Prime Minister. We have an EM-Events Manager. His whole foreign policy is designed to defame the Congress party and bring internal Indian problems; give them exposure in foreign countries.

On China front, I am told that he met Chinese President Xi Jinping 18 times but what significant progress they have made in India-China relations? Has the India–Pakistan relationship ever been worse than what it is today?

Q8) There is a demand to give Bharat Ratna to Veer Savarkar. How do you see it?

Mani Shankar Aiyar: Today when one hears that the Bharat Ratna, which has not been awarded to Mahatma Gandhi posthumously, is going to be awarded to a man like Savarkar who was the originator of two-nation theory…To give Bharat Ratna to a man like him is to disgrace the Bharat Ratna.

Q9) You have said many times that media has portrayed you wrongly. Your comments on this.

Mani Shankar Aiyar: I refuse to answer your question. It is irrelevant.

[ALSO WATCH] WATCH | Monday Talk: ‘In Ayodhya case, SC should give balanced judgment,’ says SP MP Rewati Raman Singh

WATCH FULL INTERVIEW

About the author: Anurag Sason is journalist with more than 7 years of experience in mainstream journalism. He has worked in newspaper, news agency, TV and digital media. Presently, he is working as Senior Editor-News in Likee app. He tweets at @AnuragSason

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