Chairperson: Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar
Mani Shankar Aiyar was born in Lahore on 10th April 1941.
After schooling at Welham Preparatory School and the Doon School, Dehra Dun, he went up to St.Stephen's College, Delhi where he got a first in Economics with Honours coming first in the University. He went on to do his MA in Economics at the University of Cambridge, UK, where he was elected Secretary of the Union for the Easter Term of 1963. While at Cambridge, he passed with distinction the Indian Foreign Service exam and began his career as a diplomat as soon as he came down.
He was posted to the Embassy of India, Brussels and later to the Consulate General of India in Hanoi. On returning to India in 1969, he served in the fledgling Economic Division of the Ministry of External Affairs, initially dealing with international issues but, after the liberation of Bangladesh in December 1971, with our bilateral economic relationship with the new-born country. In between, he worked as Private Secretary to the Minister of Industrial Development and Internal Trade. He returned to Brussels as first secretary in the Indian Mission to the European Economic Community and later moved to Baghdad as the Commercial Counsellor.
His final and most rewarding posting abroad was as Consul-General of India in Karachi, Pakistan. On returning to India in 1982, he served successively as Spokesperson of the Ministry and Head of Division, External Publicity, then United Nations and finally the Americas, in addition to a brief period as Information Adviser to the Information Minister. When Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister, he was inducted into the Prime Minister's Office, where the close rapport he developed with the Prime Minister led to his seeking voluntary retirement from the IFS to pursue an alternative career in politics.He was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Tamil Nadu constituency of Mayiladuturai in 1991 and again in 1999, but lost in 1996 and 1998.
He was re-elected to the Lok Sabha in 2004 and joined the Union Cabinet as Minister for Panchayati Raj, Youth Afairs and Sports. He was Special Invitee to the Congress Working Committee in charge of the North Eastern Hill States and Chairman of the Congress Party's Political Training Department from 1998 - 2004. He has been a columnist with a variety of newspapers and magazines since December 1989.
He has published several books, including Remembering Rajiv, One Year in Parliament, Pakistan Papers and Knickerwallahs, and has also edited a four-volume publication "Rajiv Gandhi's India". His latest book, "Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist" was published by Penguin in December 2004. He is married with three grown-up daughters.