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In Conversation with Mani Shankar Ayyar

I spoke to the veteran Congress leader Manishanakar Ayyar a few days ago. As you can see Mani brought in his famed eloquence, erudition and wit into all his answers. Few excerpts:

Q1- Maniji, do you blog?
A- Blog? No. I don’t blog, I don’t tweet. I am a man from the old school of thought. I don’t believe in getting intimate with technology. I am also not too internet savvy. All I can do is somehow check my emails which my daughter has taught me.

Q2-But social networking sites have taken the internet world by storm, what do you think about it?
Yes, I have heard that Shashi Tharoor has as many as 600,000 followers, bt tell me what does he tweet. Most of the time he is tweeting about the colour of the jackets he is wearing and whenever he gets into some serious stuff he gets into controversies. Tell me how you can express yourself in 140 characters!! I prefer to communicate with people by meeting them personally. I travel a lot and go to the remote corners of the country, meet all types of people. That to me is the best kind of social networking.

Q3- Are you aware that there are talks of internet being nominated for the Nobel peace prize this year?
A-Yes, that’s a nice thing. In fact we should promote e-governance in the country more seriously. We should have all the gram panchayats of the country linked to the internet. This would help solve a lot of issues in a better and more effective way. I have heard that there is some wireless technology through which you can get internet connection; I think it would be ideal for reaching out to people leaving in remote areas of the country.

Q4-Having worked with both of them, what similarities or differences do you find between Rajiv Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi?
A- I have worked very closely with Rajiv Gandhi but with Rahul there has been an age gap of almost 30 years. I don’t know him closely but what I read about him I think he is precisely the kind of young man our democracy desperately needs. He has also shown that it is not necessary to sit in the coveted chair for continuing the good grassroots level work, the type of which he has been doing for long. In many ways Rahul does remind me of his dynamic father, Rajiv Gandhi, both of them started out in the same way. Like Rajiv, Rahul is also committed to the development of the society and the nation as a whole.

Q5-With the politics of region and religion shaking up the country how do you think we can stand up to our enemies across the borders?
A- Well, region and religion are being grossly misused by some these days to gain political mileage. The beauty of out country lies in unity in diversity. Diversity of people, places, languages, views and opinions. We should compete with each other in order to bring out the best in us. But it has to be healthy competition. I would like to share with you here that in a country like UK the opposition is called the ‘Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition’ which means that though we sit in the opposition we work for the same cause i.e. the development of the country. We tell the government in power about it good and the bad policies. That is the approach we all need to take here in India, work towards a common cause. We want good people to work for us. Politicians should rise above the trivial issues of Mandir-Masjid, Bombay-Mumbai, Bihar- Maharashtra. We all need to work collectively and highlight the issues for nation’s development.

Q6- How do you think we can do it?
A- By completely ignoring these politics of hatred. Media can play a crucial role by simply avoiding such issues. These people are merely attention seekers by means of venomous speeches and provocative statements.

Q7- So when can we see Maanishankar Ayyar blogging for us?
A- The day 77% of our population which lives on a paltry sum of Rs 20 a day has access to internet and uses it for their benefit that day I’ll start my blog.

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About The Author


Ambreen Zaidi


Delhi ,  INDIA

Positions Held 1991-2006: Elected Member-10th, 13th, 14th Lok Sabha, Union Cabinet Minister- Petroleum & Natural Gas, 29 January 2006 onwards Union Cabinet Minister of Panchayati Raj and Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports and Minister of Development of North Eastern Region. Writer- Eminent columnist and contributor-papers and periodicals.

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