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Mani Shankar Aiyar

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Mani Shankar Aiyar
Minister of Panchayati Raj
In office
23 May 2004 – 22 May 2009
Prime MinisterManmohan Singh
Preceded byMinistry created
Succeeded byC. P. Joshi
Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas
In office
23 May 2004 – 29 January 2006
Prime MinisterManmohan Singh
Preceded byRam Naik
Succeeded byMurli Deora
Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports
In office
29 January 2006 – 6 April 2008
Preceded byOscar Fernandes, MoS (I/C)
Succeeded byM. S. Gill, MoS (I/C)
Minister for Development of North Eastern Region
In office
24 October 2006 – 22 May 2009
Preceded byPaty Ripple Kyndiah
Succeeded byBijoy Krishna Handique
Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha for Mayiladuthurai
In office
Preceded byK. Krishnamoorthy
Succeeded byO. S. Manian
In office
Preceded byE.S.M. Packeer Mohamed
Succeeded byP. V. Rajendran
Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
In office
22 March 2010 – 21 March 2016
Personal details
Born (1941-04-10) 10 April 1941 (age 83)
Lahore, Punjab, British India
(present-day Punjab, Pakistan)
Political partyIndian National Congress
SpouseSuneet Vir Singh (aka Suneet Mani Aiyar)
RelationsSwaminathan Aiyar (brother)
Children3 daughters
Residence(s)Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu
Alma materSt. Stephen's College, Delhi (BA)
Trinity Hall, Cambridge (BA, MA)
  • Diplomat
  • journalist/writer
  • politician
  • social worker
Source: [1]

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.

Early life and education[edit]

Aiyar with Kanti Bajpai, then headmaster, at The Doon School.

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4][5][6]

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 [citation needed] 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.

Personal life[edit]

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;[7] the second, Yamini Aiyar is a senior research fellow and director of the Accountability Initiative;[8]

Aiyar is the uncle of Vidya Shankar Aiyar, former anchor on Channelnews asia and CNN- IBN.[9][10]


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 Vinayak 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.[11]

11th President of India A. P. J. Abdul Kalam administering the oath as Cabinet Minister at a Swearing-in Ceremony in New Delhi on 2004.

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.[12]

13th President of India Pranab Mukherjee releasing a book authored by 12th Vice-President of India Mohammad Hamid Ansari, in New Delhi on 2008.

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.[13] His comment was disowned by the congress saying it's his personal view and not the party's view.[14] Rahul Gandhi asked him not to make personal attacks.[15]

Mani Shankar Aiyer justified[16] November 2015 Paris attacks as[17] a response to France banning Hijab.[18] He also justified Charlie Hebdo shooting as a backlash for the death of Muslims.[19][20] His comments were disapproved by his own party members.[21]

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".[22] 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".[23]


Aiyar has written seven books –

  • How To Be A Sycophant, NBS, New Delhi, 1990.
  • Rajiv Gandhi: The Great Computer Scientist of India, Mughal Publishers, New Delhi, 1991.
  • Remembering Rajiv, Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 1992.
  • One Year in Parliament, Konark, New Delhi, 1993.
  • Pakistan Papers, UBSPD, New Delhi, 1994.
  • Knickerwallahs, Silly-Billies and Other Curious Creatures, UBS Publishers, 1995.
  • Rajiv Gandhi's India, 4 vols. (General Editor), UBSPD New Delhi, 1997.
  • Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist, Penguin, 2004.
  • A Time of Transition: Rajiv Gandhi to the 21st Century, Penguin, 2009.


  1. ^ "Read Manto's fiction to grasp Indianness". HT Mint. 9 March 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  2. ^ 'History of the Weekly' published by The Doon School (2009) p.33
  3. ^ "The IB ultimately came to the conclusion that I was indeed a Marxist, but of the Groucho variety". Tete-a-tete. Calcutta, India: The Telegraph – Calcutta (Kolkata). 18 May 2008. Archived from the original on 19 September 2012.
  4. ^ Shukla, Ajai (20 August 2014). "New Delhi's new red line on Indo-Pak dialogue". Business Standard India – via Business Standard.
  5. ^ Aiyar, Mani Shankar (20 February 2012). "Islamabad Diary". Outlook. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  6. ^ "Detailed Profile: Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar".
  7. ^ Aiyar, Yamini; Kapur, Avani (5 October 2016). "Opinion: Swachh Bharat Mission's Success Is Greatly Exaggerated". NDTV.com. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  8. ^ "Mani Shankar Aiyar's daughter weds". The Hindu. 27 November 2006. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  9. ^ "Time for India to invigorate disarmament plan: panel". The Hindu. 20 August 2011.
  10. ^ "Time for India to invigorate disarmament plan: panel". nsspi.tamu.edu. Archived from the original on 11 June 2016. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  11. ^ "You have shamed a democratic-secular India, Mr. PM!, The Milli Gazette, Vol.5 No.18, MG112 (16–30 Sep 04)". milligazette.com.
  12. ^ "Aiyar mocks Hans Raj again, belittles Kirori Mal too". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013.
  13. ^ "Modi can never become PM, can sell tea: Mani Shankar Aiyar". The Indian Express. 17 January 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  14. ^ "Congress disapproves of Mani Shankar Aiyar's 'tea vendor' remarks against Narendra Modi". NDTV.com. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  15. ^ "Rahul disapproves of Aiyar's 'chaiwala' jibe at Modi – Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
  16. ^ "Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar justifies Charlie Hebdo killing, Twitter declares war". Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  17. ^ "Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar offers justification for Paris terror attack, terms it 'backlash' | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". dna. 8 January 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  18. ^ "Mani Shankar Aiyar justifies Paris terror attacks, says it is response to France banning Hijab". News18. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  19. ^ "Mani Shankar Aiyar justifies Charlie Hebdo attack, gets slammed on Twitter". Firstpost. 9 January 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  20. ^ "Shocker! Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar defends Charlie Hebdo attack | Tehelka Web Desk | Tehelka - Investigations, Latest News, Politics, Analysis, Blogs, Culture, Photos, Videos, Podcasts". www.tehelka.com. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  21. ^ "Cong disapproves of Mani Shankar Aiyar's remark on Paris attacks". hindustantimes.com/. 17 November 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  22. ^ "Ambedkar row: Mani Shankar Aiyar calls Modi 'neech aadmi', PM terms it a 'Mughlai mindset'". indianexpress.com. 7 December 2017.
  23. ^ "Mani Shankar Aiyar calls Modi 'neech'; suspended from Congress - Times of India ►". The Times of India. 18 August 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
New title Minister of Panchayati Raj
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas
Succeeded by