Sunday, April 2, 2006

Why fire Aiyar?

Moments after being given the charge of petroleum ministry, this man stepped on the gas to ensure that energy hungry India's gas needs are met.

And after vigorously pursuing the $7 billion Iran-India-Pakistan gas pipeline project, all that Mani Shankar Aiyar got at the end of the day was a red card from Sonia and clan.

Leading Bangladesh daily New Age said that the "carelessness with which Aiyar has been moved out of the petroleum ministry does not credit to Manmohan Singh's government".

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reshuffled his Cabinet recently to induct 19 more ministers and the biggest loser was Aiyar, who lost his portfolio to Maharashtra industrialist and Congress strongman Murli Deora.

Lauding Aiyar and his efforts, the editorial said, "Aiyar had been doing a good job and all those who have seen him operate…have remarked on the wisdom and foresight he brought to bear on the subject."

Analysts saw the dynamic minister as too anti-American who also had his share of encounters with bureaucrats.
"We must contend the fact that Aiyar has had to go because the Americans might not have been comfortable with him and his attitude to Iran," the paper said.

"Aiyar's removal from the oil ministry is widely seen as a result of intense pressure from domestic private lobbies and the Americans, who were not happy with his left-oriented view of the global economy," Pakistan's Daily Times reported.

"If that is what induced the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi into dumping a competent minister and, indeed, shifting him to a ministry where he will have little or nothing to do, it is a sad commentary on Indian politics," New Age said.
Aiyar's successor Murli Deora is known to be pro-US and often throws parties for visiting US legislators.

The Daily Times further said, "Deora may not be able to pursue the high-pressure oil diplomacy that Aiyar carried out in the past 20 months which lined up over a dozen countries for partnership with India in the energy field".

Reports in India said that Aiyar was shunted out because his views on oil diplomacy were not in conformity with those of the prime ministerial establishment.

What the Pakistan's leading daily found surprising was that Aiyar's "close terms with the Gandhi family since Rajiv Gandhi's days couldn't help him retain the portfolio, leading observers to conclude that there might have been some kind of pressure on the prime minister".

"If performance were the criterion, Aiyar would not have been touched," the paper said.

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