Aiyar attacks ‘elitist bias’ of UPA’s policies


New Delhi : As the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) completes three years in power this week, Sports and Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar has warned that the government badly needs a "midpoint course correction" as high economic growth has benefited classes rather than the masses to a "disproportionate" degree.

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Reminding the government of its Common Minimum Programme of promoting the interests of "aam admi" (the common man), Aiyar said: "Alarm bells should be rung" as the government's economic policies have given "a disproportionate benefit to the classes".

In an interview with CNN-IBN, the minister warned that if the government does not correct course it would lose "the aam admi's support" in the next elections.

"There's a disproportionate benefit of the 9.2 percent (economic growth) going to the classes. What I want to emphasise is not that there's no benefit going to the masses but that it needs to be much more consciously directed there," he told Karan Thapar in the interview broadcast Sunday morning.

"I fear that a government that is attempting to have an economic policy for the aam admi may not get the aam admi's endorsement," he said.

In an unsparing critique of his own government, Aiyar contended that its policies do not reflect the real interests of the majority of people of India and alleged that the policies are heavily influenced by elite institutions like the industry lobby Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

"We must resist the tendency to look at the interest of the classes and instead take into account the interest of the masses," he added.

The minister, known for his proximity to the Nehru-Gandhi family, also claimed that his views had received "a very sympathetic response" from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who "absolutely" understands that the time for a course correction has come.

"To my fellow Congressmen, in cabinet and out of cabinet, I have been stressing the need for us to constantly keep this course correction in mind," Aiyar said.

The minister also claimed that his views have found vast support among his cabinet colleagues and not a single minister, except Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi criticised him, after he made a blistering speech to the CII on the pro-elite bias of the government's policies.

In a speech to the CII recently, Aiyar had said: "The masses determine who will form the government but the classes determine what the government will do."