It is quite possible that Aiyar was really trying to be humourous when he made a few funny remarks about Maken's English. But in a country where calling the economy class passengers as 'cattle class', can cost a certain minister his job, Aiyar should be more restrained in his humour, says Sudhir Bisht.
The out-of-power minister, the erudite but utterly flappable and easily irritable Mani Shankar Aiyar has done it again. He has managed to grab headlines for making remarks, which he perceives to be humorous, but which many would call obnoxious.
He recently derided Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken, who in a recent letter written to the prime minister has said that Aiyar (as sports minister) had played the role of an 'obstructionist' in the holding of Commonwealth Games.
Aiyar could have kept his calm since everyone knows that he was opposed to India holding the Commonwealth Games.
I for one believe that Aiyar's public ratings would have gone up if indeed it was reinforced in people's mind that he had opposed the games. The aftermath of the CWG games wasn't too good after all.
Aiyar, the man who could have been king but for his penchant for tilting at the windmills spoiled it all. He took on Maken at a personal level and made fun of his educational background.
He suggested that Maken a BA graduate from Hansraj College couldn't have written the letter himself.
He further gave a backhanded compliment to Hanraj College by expressing his surprise that the BA graduates of that college could use words like 'dichotomous'!
Aiyar, a former Indian Foreign Service officer with a long stint in diplomatic service, should have known that humour and insult aren't one and the same thing.
By lampooning Maken and his college, he hasn't annoyed just the young minister and many Hansraj College students, past and present, but has opened a debate that has far reaching ramifications
Does Aiyar and his ilk think that by uttering comical, nonsensical statements, they can evade the real question?
The question that the nation is asking the government is that why several forces within the government were working in opposite directions as far as the games were concerned?
This tussle led to delays in award of several contracts and this was exploited to the hilt by the corrupt officers who gave out contracts without following the due process in the name of meeting deadlines.
Aiyar should know that knowing words like 'dichotomous' are not the exclusive privilege of 70 year old foggies like him. Nor does knowing big words bestow any crown on their heads.
There are many Indians and I dare say many Englishmen who may not know the meaning of the word 'dichotomous' and yet they make significant contribution in the lives of their families and their nations.
By making fun of people who haven't mastered the Queen's language, Aiyar is strengthening the belief that the parliamentarians belong to the other side of the fence. They look down upon people who are really are the real masters in a democratic set up.
Aiyar should know that by ridiculing Hansraj students, he is fomenting trouble in the campus. The deep seated prejudice against Stephens College (often without any real cause) where he schooled would have been further strengthened, had it not been for a positive press statement from its principal who sought to downplay Aiyar's comments as not being in conformity with the traditions of St Stephen's.
Aiyar should also know that language is a means of communication. It is not an end in itself. Not mastering the language is no shame just as mastering it is praiseworthy.
He must also know that he is in public life and is a MP who belongs to the ruling party. Taking potshots at his own colleague gives credence to the rumours that Congress is a divided house and people not in government are 'encouraged' to have a jab at ministers in public and get away with it.
Aiyar should know that in spite of his being a 70-year-old veteran, his career in politics hasn't sparkled till now. The highest position that he has occupied is that of a cabinet minister for petroleum and natural gas for two years.
Much of this lack of success for Aiyar is due to his inability to work well with his colleagues and peers. His running battle with the late Subir Raha who was the CMD of ONGC is well known. His political superiors shy away from him and consequently his constituency also isn't too supportive of him. This is reflected in the mauling he received thrice at the hands of his voters in 1996, 1998 and 2009.
When Aiyar was made the sports minister, his job was to successfully steward the CWG organisation and not to scuttle it.
His ideological position should have receded in background in the light of his government's decision to organise the games. Or Aiyar should have quit his post and made way for someone who would have put his heart-and-soul in the job. Aiyar did neither of the two things. He clung to his position while secretly wishing that the games would not be held.
It is this 'dichotomy' that has ensured that Aiyar didn't reach greater heights in his career even though he is one of the most erudite and scholarly politicians in India. But what is the use of all the scholarship when it results in so much unpopularity!
As my uncle, a proud Hansraj alumnus of 1954, says, "Each time Aiyar opens his mouth, I wish he was in a boxing ring with me."
It is quite possible that Aiyar was really trying to be humourous when he made a few funny remarks about Maken's 'Hansrajian' English. But in a country where calling the economy class passengers as 'cattle class', can cost a certain minister his job, Aiyar should be more restrained in his humour.
People don't particularly like the humour quotient of politicians post-Anna Hazare movement
But the last word has really come from Ajay Maken whose silence has proved to be the best form of repartee.