New Delhi, July 25 : Congress MP and former minister Mani Shankar Aiyar On Sunday put his foot in his mouth by saying that the Congress party was a "circus" and every Congressman wants to connect with this circus.
Speaking at the book launch of Rashid Kidwai's "24 Akbar Road", Aiyar said, "only hopeless workers go to 24 Akbar Road, as the powerful in the party have direct access to 10, Janpath (Sonia Gandhi's residence) or 23, Willingdon Crescent ( residence of Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel)."
Aiyar then turned his attention to the late P V Narasimha Rao, saying the former PM was to blame for the 1992 demolition of Babri Masjid, as the act occurred when he was in office.
Aiyar said the late Rao had a conflict with Congress party over secularism. "He (Narasimha Rao) was the one who was responsible for what happened in the Babri Masjid, he proved that death is not a necessary pre-condition for rigor mortis to set in. It was the biggest disaster that overtook this country because the rift valley in politics is not between right wing economic policies and left wing economic policies, it is over the nature of our nationhood. Are we a secular nation? An inclusive nation? Or are we any new nation?" he added.
He said that years ago during his Ram Rahim yatra (rally) Rao had told Aiyar that he did not understand his definition of secularism, as the former Prime Minister believed that India was a Hindu country.
He further compared theIndian National Congress with a 'dharamshala' (free shelter) where people could walk in and out as per their wishes but the party is proud of its diversity.
"The Congress has always been a 'dharamshala' (shelter) wherein many people can come, stay, get up, go and then come back again. So it is such a party, which had Indian freedom fighters Lala Lajpat Rai, Madan Mohan Malviya and Jawaharlal Nehru as well. It such a party that had Purushottam Das Tandon in Uttar Pradesh and Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi. It is such a party in which people of different opinion can live harmoniously," he said.
At the book launch, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, journalist Rajdeep Sardesai and Aiyar had a lively panel discussion.
Sardesai said, "It was on this day that 20 years ago Manmohan Singh introduced his economic reforms under Narasimha Rao. There is not even a single Samadhi for Rao, even though without him, Manmohan Singh could not have introduced his economic reforms,"
"Even in the case of Sitaram Kesri, it was a bloodleass coup. That reflects the dilemma of Congress today. It is a source of major strength and weakness for the party that it is umblically tied to one family. The Congress was formed as a democratic party and it fought independence for us, but today it is a monarchical party," Sardesai added.
Rather subdued, Digvijay Singh said, "First of all, economic liberalisation started during Rajiv Gandhi's time. Yes, it got momentum under Rao. It was on Rao's family's insistence that he was buried in Hyderabad, not because Congress did not want to. And how is the Bahujan Samaj Party not feudalistic?"
On Sardesai's comment that it was easy to write on BJP than Congress because the "BJP lives and dies by the media", Digvijay Singh said, "We envy the strength the BJP enjoys in the media."
When Sardesai reiterated that one needed connections in the Congress to rise, Aiyar said, "The two of us (Aiyar and Singh) are still sitting here, aren't we?"
Sardesai compared present day Congress to the Mughal Empire. "You are a party in decline. Will you accept that and reinvent yourself? Barring for the sympathy votes in 1984, see your vote percentage in Uttar Pradesh , Bihar and other states. Isn't it true that you are like the latter part of the Mughal Empire? The Mughals survived in their latter phase by forming alliances. That is what the Congress is doing too," Sardesai said.
When Sardesai pointed out that Mamta Bannerjee won in West Bengal after she left the Congress, Singh said, "She won the elections because of the Congress's alliance."
"I have only known one official address of the Congress, which is 24, Akbar Road. There is a syndrome called the MKH syndrome at 24, Akbar Road – Mera Kya Hoga syndrome. Here, sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don't!" Singh said.
When asked to share his memories of 24, Akbar Road, Aiyar said, "When I joined the place first, I was given a room next to the ladies' toilet!"24, Akbar Road is presented as a short history of the people behind "the fall and rise of the Congress".