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'I am the most venomous speaker around. I can spew poison'

April 24, 2014 10:58 IST

'I am the most venomous speaker around. I can spew poison'

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A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

'I do spew poison against Modi and his communalism. I am deeply depressed that India is on the edge of reaching where Germany was in January 1937 when Hitler came to power through a democratic election,' Mani Shankar Aiyar tells Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar.

On the campaign trail, Mani Shankar Aiyar is clearly exhausted. He turned 73 on April 10 and the exhaustion shows.

Aiyar resigned from the Indian Foreign Service -- which he joined in 1963 -- 25 years later at the behest of Rajiv Gandhi, his junior at the Doon School.

Aiyar entered Parliament from Mayiladuthurai in Tamil Nadu in 1991, 1999 and 2004, but was defeated in 1996, 1998 and 2009.

All his three victories have come when the Congress has been in alliance with one of the major Dravidian parties in the state. This is the first time he is contesting a Lok Sabha election without those allies.

Aiyar was candid and savage when he spoke to Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar.

Why are you contesting a Lok Sabha election? You are already a Rajya Sabha MP.

I am halfway through my Rajya Sabha term. I decided to contest because I feel I am naturally a Lok Sabha MP.

I have contested six times from this constituency. I have won thrice, twice with huge margins and once in difficult circumstances by a small margin.

The last time I lost only by 36,000 votes. I have a very long association with the constituency. Since an opportunity arose to contest the Lok Sabha elections in the middle of my Rajya Sabha term I am doing so.

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Image: Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar at a campaign rally.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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'Some Congress leaders have to work for the party'

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A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

You came forward to contest when senior leaders in your party like P Chidamabaram, G K Vasan and K V Thangabalu refused to contest?

Some leaders throughout the country have to work for the party.

Vasan has toured the entire state. He told me he had canvassed in 35 parliamentary constituencies. He always draws bigger crowds than the individual candidate. This is obviously an advantage to the party.

He is helping in the state as a whole instead of fighting a difficult election in one constituency.

Vasan came twice to my constituency to canvass for me and both times he drew larger crowds than me. He has been a huge help.

I don't know about the others, they must have their own reasons for not contesting.

I welcome their decision not to fight and I hope they welcome my decision to fight the elections.

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Image: Mani Shankar Aiyar with his wife Suneet Vir Singh before leaving for his campaign.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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'It is a liberating experience'

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A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

How does it feel to contest without a Dravidian ally?

I cannot remember when the Congress stood on its own in Tamil Nadu, must be before 1967. All the candidates want an alliance.

All the workers are thrilled that there is no alliance. All my workers are liberated -- not happy, liberated.

It is a liberating experience. I feel liberated.

They are always talking about their Puratchi Thalaivi (the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's title for J Jayalalithaa) or their Doctor Kalaignar (the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's title for M Karunanidhi) and I have to listen to them.

Now we can talk about our own leaders like Annai (mother) Sonia Gandhi. I can talk about Dr Manmohan Singh, I can talk about myself.

Why should I be upset? I am thrilled.

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Image: Mani Shankar Aiyar's campaign vehicle.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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'The political discourse has deteriorated'

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A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

You have been in public life for a very long time, first as a diplomat and then as a politician. Have you ever seen public discourse sink to such low levels as in this election?

The fault lies with the media. You have sunk to such low levels.

Your love for sensation is too much, with the 24 hours news channels twisting the print media.

You go around waiting for one word of abuse. Then you pick out that one word of sleaze from an entire conversation and blow it out of proportion.

You are to blame more than any one else.

It is not a happy moment for democracy. But you can't help it as the media is a part of democracy.

Political discourse has deteriorated and I am not surprised that the media has deteriorated.

The media should maintain higher standards and go less for sensationalism and more for substance. Then maybe things could improve.

Just as you have to put up with politicians we have to put up with you.(Laughs.)

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Image: Mani Shankar Aiyar interacts with party workers before heading out for campaigning.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
Tags: 1

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'How can I entrust the nation to Modi?'

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A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

You mean the speaker is not to be blamed, but the media which reports it is?

In politics you need a hide, not a skin. I feel the noise that is being made in the media about the language that is being used is nonsense.

In politics I am going to hit out at my opponent.

What do you have to say about personal attacks?

You want to marry or don't want to marry is your business, but if you do marry, what you need to do is ensure a decent living for that woman, you cannot abandon her.

He loves Amit Shah so much and gives him everything, why couldn't he do something for the lady who married him?

We are talking about his attitude towards women. Half the population of India is women.

She cannot marry again. This is not the West or the Arab world. When he cannot look after a woman who is a part and parcel of his life, how can I entrust the nation to him?

If he can be pressurised by his mother to marry, tomorrow he can be pressurised by Adani to sell the country.

He has sold Gujarat to the capitalists and now he is getting ready to sell my country.

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Image: Mani Shankar Aiyar, diplomat and politician.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
Tags: Modi , India , West

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'I do spew poison against Modi and his communalism'

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A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

You think venomous, vitriolic, speeches get you votes?

I am the most venomous speaker around. I can spew poison.

I do spew poison against Modi and his communalism. I am deeply depressed that India is on the edge of reaching where Germany was in January 1937 when Hitler came to power through a democratic election.

He called us Congressmen Kariyan (termites), so I called him a scorpion.

I am not stopping him from calling me a termite and he cannot stop me from calling him a poisonous snake. He cannot stop me from calling him a scorpion.

You know why I call him a scorpion? When 2,000 Muslims died in Gujarat he said he feels sorry if a puppy comes under his car. Who is he calling a dog? Does he think Muslims are puppies?


Image: Mani Shankar Aiyar campaigns alomng with his wife, left, and daughter, right.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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