One can take Mani Shankar Aiyar out of panchayati raj. But not panchayati raj out of Mani Shankar Aiyar.
For almost two years, the former panchayati raj minister of the UPA is trying to convince top ministers to create a government-backed panel to improve the panchayati raj institution.
All his ideas, however, have fallen on deaf ears so far.
Top UPA sources told HT, Aiyar met all rural development ministers — CP Joshi, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Jairam Ramesh-since his return to Rajya Sabha in March 2010. He also reportedly met union minister for panchayati raj Kishore Chandra Deo and spoke to planning commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
At least two ministers also claimed that Aiyar wanted them to write to the prime minister to make him the chairman of the committee. Aiyar, however, denied this.
"I have not recommended myself as the chairman to anybody," he said.
Last week, Aiyar visited Jairam Ramesh to ask him for the "last time" to write a letter to the PM. Ramesh didn't oblige. Both Congressmen sat close to each other in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday for more than 13 hours during the Lokpal debate, but they didn't even exchange pleasantries.
Though Deshmukh had conveyed Aiyar’s appeal to the PMO, it is yet to get a favourable response.
"I was very concerned to see that during the past 5 years, the average GDP growth was more than 8% while growth in poverty alleviation was just 0.8%. From R7,608 crore in 1995, the social sector allocations have gone up to R1,85,000 crore. But India is stagnant at the 134th position in the UN development report. Clearly, there is a need to strengthen the efficiency of panchayati raj institution and the participatory development programmes," Aiyar told HT.
"The Balwantrai Mehta Committee of 1957 and the Asoka Mehta committee in 1978 marked major shift in addressing the public service mechanism. I want the government to set up a similar body to examine how resources can be better used through the panchayati raj," Aiyar added.