Aiyar rubbishes WikiLeaks expose

Lucknow: Former Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar on Monday rubbished Wikileaks expose that he was replaced by Murli Deora as Petroleum Minister in 2006 under US pressure.

He, however noted that the US was happy that he was removed.

"It is rubbish that petroleum portfolio was taken from me as the US was unhappy," Aiyar told reporters here in a reply to a question on Wikileaks reports.

He said that during UPA-I he was given additional and "temporary" charge of Petroleum Ministry along with Panchayati Raj.

"It was my luck that the temporary charge lasted for 20 months as the first cabinet reshuffle happened after that and as petroleum minister I did an outstanding job," he said.

Aiyar said that the Iran-Pak-India pipeline project plan chalked out during his stint as the minister was against the US strategy.

"The plan, which was part of a larger vision, was crucial from the fuel safety and economy of the country," he said.

He said that the US, which had imposed sanction against Iran, was against the project as it had benefited the country financially.

"In fact I proposed to extend the pipeline to China so that Pakistan does not play any dirty trick. The plan had go ahead approval from all concerned including the Prime Minister to start negotiations," he said.

The former minister said that a section in the US may be happy from his ouster from the petroleum ministry.

"US were happy that I was removed. It was no so that I was removed as US was unhappy therefore I was removed," he said.

"It was no so that the PM went to the US diplomat to ask that who should be appointed as the minister," he added.

On Wikileaks, he said that if cable can lie about Jaitley, then it can also lie about Nachiketa Kapur, who is described as a political aide.

CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat had yesterday said the Left, which provided outside support to the UPA-I, was aware that Mani Shankar Aiyar was shifted out of the Petroleum Ministry in 2006 as he was pursuing energy policy which the Americans did not like.

Aiyar, who was here to attend the meeting of Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Raj organisation as its national coordinator, alleged that Uttar Pradesh was most backward in panchayati raj.

"A lot of progress has been made in others states, but unfortunately UP is miserably lagging behind. The state has to be taken forward in the interest of the people," he said.

He said that the state has a very good law, set of rules and information, only the will power was lacking.

"Our intention is to associate more and more people ahead of the state Assembly election to win the polls, but the larger objective is to strengthen the panchayati raj in the state," he said.

The former minister said that all centrally sponsored schemes should be stopped and finance, function and functionaries should be handed over to the panchayats to strengthen the system.