Debate on Rajiv Gandhi at Aiyar's book release function

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New Delhi, Feb 18 (ANI): A discussion on former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi dominated Mani Shankar Aiyar's book launch function in New Delhi on Tuesday.

The book, 'A Time Of Transition' is a collection of Congress leader Aiyar's columns in The Indian Express between 1996 and 2004.

The columns are said to be organised according to the five principles that Aiyar believes ruled the ideologies of Rajiv Gandhi. These were secularism, socialism, neighbourhood policy, non-alignment and democracy.

The book release function was attended by various dignitaries, including ex- Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga and ex-Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri.

According to the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, democracy was deepened in a special way in the prime ministerial years of Gandhi and Aiyar, who is also the Cabinet Minister in the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, was closely involved in the process through the development of initiatives that eventually became the Panchayati Raj amendments.

Former Sri Lankan President Kumaratunga appreciated Gandhi's commitment towards democracy and secularism. She said that he focused his ideology in the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement that he signed with President Junius Jayawardene.

Rajiv's principles, and the Sri Lankan constitutional amendments he inspired, animate political life in the non-Tamil provinces even today; the challenge would be to extend them to all Sri Lankan's, she said.

Former Pakistan Foreign Minister Kasuri said that Aiyar, ever famous for his blunt comments, was still regarded as an enormously successful diplomat in Pakistan.

Former under Secretary General of the United Nations Shashi Tharoor praised Gandhi's ideology of non-alignment by recalling US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles question to Jawaharlal Nehru: "Are you with us, or against us?" to which Nerru replied : Yes".

He said that if the US asks the question even today, the answer would be the same.

When NDTV's Barkha Dutt termed Rajiv Gandhi a "socialist", Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta immediately said that had Rajiv been alive today, he would have been embarrassed at being identified as a socialist.

Tharoor also stated that Gandhi's popularization of telecommunications and the consequent cellphone revolution were his greatest achievements.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley said the first two years of the Rajiv Gandhi Government represented a certain sense of idealism.

Addressing the issue of secularism, Jaitley pointed out that on one side Gandhi permitted shilanyas at the site of the Babri Masjid, and on the other hand, allowed the Shah Bano amendment.

The relevance of Rajiv Gandhi's core values was thus discussed with extreme fervour for hours. (ANI)

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