The Congress-led UPA government has sprung a surprise by including former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar in the list of five presidential nominees to the Rajya Sabha.
Though politicians have been nominated to the Upper House in the past, eyebrows were raised in political circles over the manner in which the Congress high command chose an “unusual route” for Aiyar’s entry in Parliament.
Aiyar was panchayati raj minister in the previous UPA government but lost the Lok Sabha elections from Mayiladuthurai constituency in Tamil Nadu last year.
For Ram Dayal Munda, former vice-chancellor of Ranchi University, it was the second gift this year. He was named for the Padmashri in January.
A recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2007, he plays several traditional musical instruments besides being a singer, songwriter and an accomplished painter. Among other nominated members, Bhalchandra Mungekar, a Dalit, is a former vice-chancellor of Mumbai University and served as a member of the Planning Commission from 2004 to 2009.
Once a critic of the western mode of economic reforms, Mungekar, one of India’s leading development economists, is also opposed to reforms in higher education as he fears the move will exclude the deprived sections.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, sources said, had recommended the name of well-known Kannada stage artiste and singer B. Jayashree. She is the only woman in the list.
The fifth member, Javed Akhtar, is a celebrated and sought-after lyricist and scriptwriter. He was awarded the Padmashri in 1999 and Padma Bhushan in 2007 and won the National Award five times.