April 21, 2021
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Congress Games: Behind Aiyar V/s Kalmadi

Congress Games: Behind Aiyar V/s Kalmadi

Mani Shankar Aiyar's ire at Mr Suresh Kalmadi or the very idea of New Delhi hosting the Commonwealth Games (CWG) has never been a state-secret. But why is he suddenly publicly saying that he would be unhappy if the games are successful?

"Just imagine if we would have spent the Rs. 35,000 crore in providing training to the children, we would have won medals in every international sporting event," he said today, arguing that successful hosting of these games would mean bigger games -- Asian, why even the Olympics -- coming to India which the country can ill-afford.

These remarks coming in the midst of daily adverse reports about the poor preparations for the CWG and the party's recent directive to its leaders to stick to subjects within their domain, have predictably set tongues wagging, particularly because Parliament is in session, the games are round the corner, the Congress is under pressure on mismanagement and corruption in the organisation of the CWG from an otherwise totally discredited BJP.

While Suresh Kalmadi, was the ostensible target, Congresswallahs point out that the not-so-hidden target in Mani's "those who are patronising the Games can only be evil; they cannot be God," barb was actually the mummy-beta duo of Sheila and Sandeep Dikshit whose photographs are featured in some of the posters printed for the games.

Aiyar is an old Gandhi loyalist and his latest outburst in typical Congress fashion led to  whispers doing the rounds that his fulminations could only be a result of a clear signal from the asli mummy-beta as a snub to the Delhi chief minister. Given the woeful state of preparedness for the games, some also saw the Gandhis distancing themselves from the CWG, should they turn out to be a disaster.

Different points of view in the Congress are not a new thing. It's a Big Tent, as the conventional thinking goes, which offers unity in diversity and also many things to many people. The conspiracy theorists, on the other hand, are pointing to all this as the lead-up to the battle to succeed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally calls it quit, there is much hype over Rahul Gandhi taking over the mantle. But most insiders say that Rahul Gandhi's "inner-voice" might tell him to follow the path shown by his mother and thus enjoy power without accountability.

Should that happen, given that Mr Pranab Mukherjee is already ruled out by age, among the top contenders would be Mr Digvijay Singh and Mr P. Chidambaram. Mr Singh joining issue with Mr Chidambaram is preparing for being seen as a signal to the latter not to take his candidature for granted.

As an op-ed piece in the New Indian Express points out today,

It goes without saying that positioning by Congress leaders would have relevance, if there was a vacancy at the top. For some reason, the buzz in the party refuses to die down that Manmohan Singh may throw in the towel in 2012, either to walk into the sunset for health reasons or to move into Rashtrapati Bhavan. And that  Rahul Gandhi may decide not to take over the reins of power after the UP elections, even if the Congress does well. Or he may decide even in 2014 to play the role of Sonia Gandhi, at least for some more time.

So what happens if Manmohan Singh does decide to retire before 2013 when, as the above piece reminds us, Mr Digvijay Singh’s political sanyas ends? Who other than Mr Chidambaram could be the contenders for the throne?

Family loyalty would necessarily be a big qualification. Significantly, insiders underline, Mr Aiyar had also supported Mr Digvijay Singh "one thousand percent" in his opposition to Mr Chidambaram's "militaristic approach" to tackling Maoists/Naxals. 

Post Script:

When given a chance to 'retract' his statement on a TV show, Mani Shankar Aiyar said, "What would be anti-India would be flop games". He went on to say that he was only showing a mirror to the authorities and that his remarks were selectively blown out of proportion.

When asked pointedly, "Would you be happy if the games were a success?" he said he would answer  in the words of TS Eliot's Wasteland (which, he added, would possibly need to be translated for Mr Kalmadi):

I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest

He said, as sports minister he had foreseen and warned against just what he fears now. He was again asked to spell out his position whether he would be happy or not at the successful hosting of the games. He said:

"If I were to become the Prime Minister, I will be very happy. But that my friend," he said, ain't going to happen."  

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