Besides oral bombshells in India, each time Mani Shankar Aiyar travels to Pakistan, his party leadership keeps a tense watch. (PTI/File)
Speaking at an event in Lahore, Mani Shankar Aiyar praised Pakistani hospitality and questioned why the Narendra Modi government does not have the “courage” to hold talks with the neighbour. Will the remark cost the Congress just as his ‘chaiwala’ and ‘neech’ jibes did before 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections?
Mani Shankar Aiyar’s latest book is titled Memoirs of a Maverick. And maverick he has been for his party as far as his public utterances, usually delivered at the wrong time before elections, go. The most devastating for the grand old party were the ‘chaiwala’ and ‘neech’ jibes at Narendra Modi before 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, surrendering the narrative to the BJP on a silver platter.
Besides oral bombshells in India, each time Aiyar travels to Pakistan, his party leadership keeps a tense watch. Regardless, the veteran Congressman did not disappoint political observers. Speaking at an event in Lahore, Mani Shankar Aiyar praised Pakistani hospitality and questioned why the Narendra Modi government does not have the “courage” to hold talks with the neighbour.
“I have never been to a country where I have been welcomed with open arms as I have been in Pakistan… The Pakistanis, from my experience, have been the people who react perhaps overreact to the other side. If we are friendly, they are over-friendly and if we are hostile, they get over hostile,” he is reported to have said during a session titled ‘Hijr Ki Rakh, Visaal Kay Phool, Indo-Pak Affairs’ on the second day of the Faiz Festival at Alhamra in Lahore.
Taking potshots at the Modi government, he added: “We have the courage to conduct surgical strikes against you, but we don’t have the courage to sit across the table and talk.”
Aiyar even criticised the Indian electoral system in Pakistan. “Modi has never received more than one-third votes, but our system is such that if he has one-third of the votes, he has two-thirds of the seats.”
Aiyar had urged PM Modi to hold talks with Pakistan last August as well. Ties between India and Pakistan nosedived following a spate of terror attacks on Indian military bases by Pakistan-based terror groups since January 2016. India has made it clear that it will not hold dialogue with Pakistan as terrorism and talks cannot go hand-in-hand.
Aiyar’s comments in view of the chaotic general elections in Pakistan have once again put the Congress on the backfoot. The grand old party anyway finds itself on the wrong end of the nationalism debate and its inability to reign in Aiyar, ironically a former diplomat, may add to its woes ahead of general elections.