Mani Shankar Aiyar, the PM's Constant Critic

Published: October 08, 2014 17:40 IST
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(Nalin S Kohli is spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Director of the party's Public Policy Research Centre. He is also a lawyer and has extensive experience in media and education.)

"A tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use" said Washington Irving, author of the short story Rip Van Winkle, published in 1819. By relentlessly criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi for anything and everything, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar confirms his preference for acerbic verbosity over achievement.

Mr Aiyar incessantly scorns every initiative of Prime Minister Modi's government and liberally professes advice on how the new government should consider his suggestions for their implementation. If they were genuinely delivered and well-intentioned, perhaps they may have been worth considering. But coming from one who felt honoured on not being invited by the Prime Minister to join the Swachh Bharat or Clean India Movement, and publically deriding his colleague Dr Shashi Tharoor for accepting it, evidently India's betterment is hardly a priority for Mr Aiyar.

In his article on www.ndtv.com titled "Others Have a PM. We have an EM (Events Manager)", beyond his addiction to personally deriding Prime Minister Modi, Mr Aiyar has expended significant effort in explaining how the new government should implement the Swachh Bharat campaign. He has quoted statistical data and the problems associated with those who clean the millions of tons of litter that's generated on a daily basis. Yet, he has preferred silence on why his party and colleagues failed to deliver results on this very front after being in office for close to six decades. Was it on account of absolute ineptitude or a lack of commitment towards priorities even as they sought the enjoyment of benefits associated with office? 

For all his wisdom, Mr Aiyar himself failed to make a success of the Jan Kerosene Pariyojana which he launched with much fanfare on 2nd October 2005 as the Union Petroleum Minister. The objective of the Jan Kerosene Pariyojana scheme was to effectively distribute kerosene to end consumers and prevent diversion of the fuel. It also sought to involve Panchayati Raj institutions in monitoring of the scheme.

The scheme was hardly a trailblazing success, and within three years, the government was forced to consider dumping it altogether. Obviously it takes much more to deliver than to criticize. But even that experience has not mattered after all for Mr Aiyar and his ilk.

Compare this with the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY). If enabling the access of banking services to the marginalised was a professed goal for the nationalisation of banks in the early 1970s, what prevented the Congress from achieving this over the next four decades? With intent and commitment, this was certainly possible. Or else, how would one explain the opening of close to 55 million new accounts under PMJDY since its launch in just over two months? It's also heartening to note that 60% of these accounts have been opened in rural areas.

And such mandarins of the Congress brand of politics should also note that these beneficiaries have deposited more than 4,200 crores in their newly-opened bank accounts. Change is possible, provided there is a plan for action driven by purity of intent to do so. That's the difference between serving the people and seeking to rule over them, Mr Aiyar.

Rip Van Winkle on awakening from his two-decade slumber discovered that George Washington had established independence and ejected the reign of King George III. Mr Winkle's self-induced slumber did not prevent the wheels of time from moving on and ahead.

Likewise, those who chose to stop by the way are given a go-by. That's exactly what happened with the Congress-led UPA government. Aspirational Indians were no longer willing to endlessly wait for a government to wake up and perform. And thus, they rejected a promissory model that perpetually sought to present a chimera instead of delivering it.

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