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‘Sent back to pavilion but ready to bat if called,’ says Congress' Mani Shankar Aiyar

By, New Delhi
Aug 21, 2023 06:11 PM IST

In Dec 2017, Aiyar was suspended from the party for calling PM Narendra Modi a ‘neech aadmi.’ The suspension was revoked in Aug 2018.

Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, who has been out of active politics for some time, on Monday expressed his hurt at being benched by the party, even as he stressed he is ‘ready if called in to bat.’

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with party leader Mani Shankar Aiyar and padayatris participating in the party's Bharat Jodo Yatra Kerala's Wayanad on September 27, 2022. (Congress Twitter/ANI)

“…as of now, this is 2023, and I have been out of the Rajya Sabha for the last seven years. I have been without a position in the Congress for the last 10 years; I had not anticipated this. I had thought that I would be without a position for 10 years, and that may be after that, I would be recognised. But in my case, as it has turned out, it has been the opposite,” Aiyar told PTI in an exclusive interview.

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The former Indian Foreign Services (IFS) officer, 82, added: “I did have a good innings, but now I have been sent back to the pavilion. But I am all padded up and ready to bat if I'm called in to bat."

Aiyar, who has spent his entire political career with the Congress, spoke to PTI on the occasion of the release of his autobiography. The book, titled ‘Memoirs of a Maverick: The First Fifty Years (1941-1991),’ hit the stands on Monday.

The former Union minister is infamous for his foot-in-mouth statements; in January 2014, just months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, he dismissed Narendra Modi, then the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, as a ‘chaiwala’ (tea seller). Modi, who spent a part of his childhood selling tea, went on to make the BJP the first party since 1984 to win a single-party majority in the Lok Sabha, and became the prime minister of India.

Then, in December 2017, in the run-up to assembly elections in Modi's home state of Gujarat, Aiyar called the PM a ‘neech aadmi’ (a vile man). Though the Congress swiftly suspended him, the BJP won a closely-fought election in the state.

In September last year, Aiyar, whose suspension was revoked in August 2018, walked along side Congress MP and former party chief Rahul Gandhi, during the Kerala leg of Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March). Gandhi represents the state's Wayanad seat in the Lok Sabha.

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