Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mani Shankar Aiyer cannot complain about Maken….

This is a growing culture in our country. There are many people like Mani Shankar Aiyer who like to criticize and pull down others like Maken who are making an effort to do something. Maken’s recent sports bill may not be perfect, but at least he has made some sort of an effort – something that Mani didn’t do when he was the sports minister.

Aiyer should be the last one to complain about Maken’s Sports Bill. Agreed the Bill is short on strategy and I had pointed this out in my post on 1st September when I raised the question: Does the Bill have any concrete proposals to actually improve the sporting environment in the country? We surely need a much larger debate on how we are going to spot talent in the country and then nurture it. But at least Maken has made an effort. In his time as sports minister, I cannot think of Mani having done even that much.

In fact, it was Mani who was first responsible for the delays in CWG projects. Mani was always conceptually opposed to a poor country like India organizing big sporting events and spending billions of dollars on them. He has a right to have this belief. There is nothing wrong in that. Many people felt the same way as Mani did. The CWG contract was one during the NDA regime and unfortunately Mani had been saddled with something that he didn’t believe in. His lack of enthusiasm for the CWG led to the entire period of his tenure – the years between 2006 and 2009 – being wasted. Projects that should have been nearing completion in 2009 were nowhere close to completion. So much so that the Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell had to state that the slow progress of preparations represented a serious risk to the event itself. Today, very few people remember those years. But many of the problems that we eventually saw in the CWG – delays in setting up the infrastructure, cost over-runs, poor quality – all can be attributed a whole lot to the delays that happened during Mani’s tenure.

Not only has Mani been unapologetic about and unaccepting of his role in the CWG mess, he has been on the aggressive on the subject. He has wanted to cast himself in the role of a whistleblower bringing up the matter of cost overruns and delays in projects. For his three years, he did nothing; later he became a whistleblower warning the PM about cost overruns. How funny is that? As the sports minister, he should not have just complained; he should have corrected the situation. I thought that when he said that he would be "unhappy" if the Games were a success and wished for the "Commonwealth Games to be “spoiled”, he truly violated any sense of decency and decorum he may have had. Not surprising then that the Indian media had panned him for this statement of his.

Mani is a bright guy. His credentials are impeccable – a former IFS officer who resigned in 1989 to join Rajiv Gandhi in politics. Should he want to apply his mind to helping draft a better sports bill, he can surely do so. But out there in the Congress, there is a war of a different type going on. Mani is on a trip of his own. His biggest claim to fame today is his proximity to Sonia Gandhi. As Rajiv Gandhi’s confidante, he became a close friend of the family. His entire agenda these days seems to be to defend the Gandhi family wherever it is under attack.

The real truth is short and simple. Instead of criticizing Maken, it would do Mani much good if he contributed with some ideas. Mani is a good debater and it would help if he debated the pros and cons of various proposals, rather than attack Maken. It doesn’t matter if Mani disagrees with points in Maken’s bill, but criticizing without giving positive suggestions simply isn’t good enough….

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