on Rajiv Gandhi, a few jokes mark Aiyar's book launch
New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) Has the 21st century overtaken Rajiv
Gandhi's vision? A panel discussion by eminent politicians
and diplomats on the subject called for interesting observations,
even a few jokes - of course at the author's expense - at
the launch of union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar's latest book
here Tuesday evening.
Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission
and one of the panelists, chose to simply say that under the
aegis of Aiyar, the 21st century actually saw the realisation
of the late former prime minister's dream - decentralisation
of power through Panchayati Raj.
"Mani who is the minister of Panchayati Raj has done
some good work and all of this is an ode to Rajiv Gandhi,"
Fellow panelist Shashi Tharoor, former UN under-secretary
general, went a step ahead to say that probably the theme
of the discussion should have been to analyse all of Gandhi's
dreams that have been fulfilled in the 21st century.
"There are four main sections in Mani's book - democracy,
secularism, socialism, and non-alignment and neighbourhood
policy. Whether you talk about the effective implementation
of the Panchayati Raj or the opening up of telecommunication
to the masses - it's all realisation of Rajiv Gandhi's dreams,"
Aiyar's book "A Time of Transition" is a collection
of articles and columns that he wrote between 1996 and 2004.
In his own words, the collection looks back at the changes
in the political scenario in the last two decades after Rajiv
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley, another
panelist, said that although Gandhi's initial tenure showed
hope, "but sometime after two years, his governance got
"And because his governance had started getting derailed,
perhaps history about him would have been recorded differently
if his life would not have been cut short so drastically,"
On a lighter vein though, he said that Aiyar was much better
performing in the opposition than he is now.
"He was one of the best we had in the opposition, but
now we are seeing the less of the best in him. I don't know
probably he will go back to writing his columns in three months
(with elections around the corner)," Jaitley said amid
peals of laughter.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury
added: "I wish that both (Jaitley and Aiyar) return to
writing columns in the next three months!"
Vice President Hamid Ansari was also present on the occasion,
as was Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, former foreign minister of
Pakistan, and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, former president
of Sri Lanka.
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