Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar caused some embarrassment to his party when he in his characteristic self-deprecatory style called the Congress a ‘circus’ to which every Congressman wants to connect.
But the Congress made light of his remarks with party spokesman Manish Tewari saying “you all know him well”.
Aiyar made these comments at the launch of journalist Rasheed Kidwai’s book — 24 Akbar Road — at the India Habitat Centre on Sunday.
Aiyar, a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, also said that “only hopeless workers go to 24 Akbar Road, as the powerful in the party have direct access to 10, Janpath (party president Sonia Gandhi’s residence) or 23, Willingdon Crescent (residence of Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel)”.
But his comments did not go well with some party colleagues. “If the Congress party is a circus, what is he doing there. Is he playing the role of a joker or what? He has served both the party and the government in different capacities,” senior leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi said.
Aiyar also compared the Congress with a ‘dharamshala (free shelter)’ where people could walk in and out as per their wishes but the party is proud of its diversity.
“The Congress has always been a dharamshala, wherein many people can come, stay, get up, go and then come back again. So it is such a party, which had Indian freedom fighters Lala Lajpat Rai, Madan Mohan Malviya and Jawaharlal Nehru as well. It is such a party that had Purushottam Das Tandon in Uttar Pradesh and Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi. It is such a party in which people of different opinion can live harmoniously,” he said.
Aiyar then attacked former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao, blaming him for the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition. Participating in the discussion, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh said: “I have only known one official address of the Congress, which is 24, Akbar Road.”