Born On: 10 April 1941
Born In: Lahore, British India
Mani Shankar Aiyar, a Cambridge economics graduate, a diplomat for Rajiv Gandhi and a congress politician, is a prominent political figure. He set out to make a mark in politics after an impressive and eventful administrative career which saw him undertake many missions such as being the country's first ever Consul General in Karachi and taking part in diplomatic missions in Brussels, Hanoi and Baghdad. The honorary degree conferred to him by his Alma mater Cambridge University, recognizing his contribution to the 'diplomatic and political life of world's greatest democracy', is a testimony to his excellence. Mani Shankar Aiyar also maintained a close relationship with Rajiv Gandhi who was his junior in Doon School and Cambridge University. The fine years of his diplomatic life was spend in Prime Minister's office under Rajiv Gandhi. As a political leader, he won and lost many electoral battles, served as the Union Cabinet minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas and Panchayati Raj in Manmohan Singh Ministry.
Mani Shankar Aiyar was born on 10 April 1947 in Lahore in British India to V. Sankar Aiyar, a chartered accountant, and Bhagyalakshmi Sankar Aiyar. His younger brother Swaminathan Aiyar is a journalist. At the age of 12, Mani Shankar lost his father in an air crash. He received his early education from Welham Boys' School, The Doon's School, Dehradun and St. Stephen's college in Delhi. After his father's death, his mother had to negotiate with Doon School to reduce the school fees under an agreement that she would teach there, in return. He did his graduation in Economics from Delhi University after which he did a two-year Tripos in Economics from Cambridge University. Mani Shankar Aiyar also holds a D. Sc (Honoris Causa) from Indian School of Mines. In Cambridge, he was a member of Marxist society. He also got actively involved in student politics, where he was supported by Rajiv Gandhi who was his junior there. He joined Indian Foreign Service in 1963.
Mani Shankar Aiyar served 26 years in IFS of which, the last five years were spent in deputation to the Prime Minister's office under Rajiv Gandhi. He took keen interest in grass roots democracy, India's foreign policy with the neighboring countries and West Asia and nuclear disarmament. He worked in the Indian Diplomatic Missions in Brussels, Hanoi and Baghdad. He also worked as the Private Secretary to the Ministry of Industry and Internal Trade from 1970 to 1971 and was chosen as the India's first ever Consul-General in Karachi in 1978 where he continued till 1982. From 1982 to 1983, he worked as the Joint Secretary in Ministry of External Affairs and served as an Advisor to the Information Minister from 1983 to 1984.
In 1989, he resigned from the service to take up a career in politics and media. In 1991, he was elected to the 10th Lok Sabha from Mayiladuthurai. In 1992, he joined All India Congress Committee (AICC). In 1998, he became the secretary of AICC and in 1999, was elected to the 13th Lok Sabha from Mayiladuthurai. He was elected to the 14th Lok Sabha from the same constituency in 2004. Thereafter, he had served as the Union Cabinet Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Panchayati Raj and Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports. He was defeated in 1996, 1998 and 2009. He is a special invitee to the congress working committee and is the chairman of the political training department and policy planning and coordination department.
Mani Shankar Aiyar is the founder member and president of Society for Secularism. Apart from being a well-known political columnist, he has also authored several books. He is also the trustee of Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. He is also the Honorary Advisor to the bureau of Parliamentary Studies and Training, Chairman of the India Chapter of the South Asia Foundation and also been the alumnus Member of Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.
Contributions To Politics
Mani Shankar Iyar has penned several books which include: