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‘Adamant’ jab at PM

New Delhi, July 15: Mani Shankar Aiyar today called Narendra Modi “authoritarian” and “adamant” as the treasury benches in the Rajya Sabha heard in silence.

The comments came during the discussion on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2014, which was passed in the upper House, completing the process of the appointment of Nripendra Mishra as principal secretary to the Prime Minister.

Without naming Mishra, the former Indian Foreign Service officer attacked Modi for issuing an ordinance for a single individual.

“The ordinance is to exempt one single individualů and satisfy the whims of another single individual,” said Aiyar. “It is malafide to change law for one person,” he added.

Modi had issued an ordinance to remove a legal hurdle to Mishra’s appointment in the PMO. The Trai Act barred the re-appointment of a former Trai chairman — Mishra had served as one — in the government.

Aiyar described the issuing of the ordinance as “such a whimsical way of running a government”.

Modi was a first-timer in Parliament, the Congress MP said. “But this is an old House,” added Aiyar, drawing some reaction from the treasury benches, which otherwise did not interrupt his speech.

The BJP reminded Opposition benches how the UPA government had withdrawn an ordinance. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in the House at the time of the comment. In September last year, the Singh government had to withdraw an ordinance on preventing immediate disqualification of convicted MPs after party vice-president Rahul Gandhi said he would “tear it and throw it away”.

Deputy chairman P.J. Kurien expunged two words from Aiyar’s statement.

Even after that, the indefatigable MP spared neither Mishra nor Modi. Raising questions about the efficiency of the principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Aiyar cited instances where the Trai had “not covered itself in glory” earlier this year, referring to observations on the telecom regulator by the Supreme Court.

This is not the first time Aiyar has taken on Modi. Reacting to Modi’s claim during the election campaign that he had been a teaboy, the MP had said at a Congress conclave that the BJP leader was free to sell tea at the meeting. The BJP had then grabbed the opportunity to start the successful “Chai pe charcha” campaign.

The Trai amendment, passed in the Lok Sabha yesterday, was cleared by the upper House without any real opposition. Congress MP T. Subbirami Reddy moved a resolution to disapprove of the Trai ordinance. It was supported by the Congress, Left parties and the JDU. The BSP, Samajwadi Party and the Trinamul Congress supported the government on the ground that the Prime Minister and chief ministers have every right to appoint their principal secretary.