My concerns have been addressed, says Aiyar post UPA report


New Delhi : Mani Shankar Aiyar, the minister who dared to criticise the policies of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, was wearing a striking red kurta at a dinner Tuesday to mark its third anniversary – the colour of the Left parties with whom he seemed to be sharing his viewpoint of late.

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But as soon as the speeches of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi ended, followed by a sumptuous meal on the lawns of 7, Race Course Road, he was visibly a pleased man.

"My concerns have been addressed," remarked Aiyar, minister for Panchayati Raj, Youth Affairs, Sports, and Development of North Eastern Region.

"The prime minister, as well as the UPA chairperson, have shared my concerns in their respective speeches," he told IANS, in an obvious reference to his recent remarks that the UPA government's economic policies were failing to reach out to the masses, and that there was an urgent need for course-correction.

At the event, just before the arrival of Manmohan Singh and Gandhi, there was some speculation over who would be seated next to the prime minister, a place that was previously occupied by Dayanidhi Maran who had to resign last week in the wake of differences with his DMK party chief M. Karunanidhi.

The suspense was soon broken when T.R. Balu, the minister for road transport, highways and shipping, parked himself there – this time, dressed in a crisp veshti (dhoti) and not the safari suits one is generally accustomed to seeing him in.

After the speeches ended and the 19 leaders on the dais, including Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister Shivraj Patil, had posed for photographs, one hoped the prime minister would answer some questions from waiting journalists.

But neither he nor Gandhi was in the mood.

Along with Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat and the leaders of some of the main constituents of the UPA, they promptly settled down at a special table for a sumptuous dinner.

And the fare, drawn from the cuisines from all over India, was impressive.

Most invitees, including the newly appointed IT and Communications Minister A. Raja, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Aiyar himself were seen enjoying a hearty meal, following a pat on their backs by Gandhi.

There was Chicken Chettinad, Kesaria Mahi Tikka, Murg Burrah Kabab, Gosht Roganjosh and Hydrabadi Gosht Biryani for meat-lovers and Hara Kabab, Dhania Paneer Korma, Sambhar, Tawa Subzi, Subz Nargisi Kofta, Bhindi-do-piaza and Rajmah for the vegetarians.

The dessert also was equally impressive, what with jalebi with rabri, kesar pista kulfi falooda, lemon souffle, orange chenna payas and fresh fruits.