US was happy at my exit from petroleum ministry: Aiyar

Answering questions at a press conference here, Aiyar said, “Well, US was unhappy with my stand on the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, of which I was a strong advocate. They also disliked me because I openly opposed their intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

“In fact, I was also in favour of extending the pipeline right up to China so that the latter would keep a check on any kind of mischief by Pakistan,” he said.

Aiyar, now a Rajya Sabha member, was a minister in the United Progressive Alliance-I 2004-2009 and held the portfolio of petroleum and natural gas ministry from 2004-2006.
The recent WikiLeaks expose of US diplomatic cables have referred to US "unhappiness" at Aiyar being given the petroleum portfolio, and satisfaction at him being eased out of the ministry two years later. Aiyar, however, did not see any American role in the ministry being taken away from him.   

Claiming that the charge of the petroleum ministry was entrusted to him only as a “temporary” measure, he said, “I do not know why the temporary charge remained with me for nearly two years, but sure enough it had to go. Considering that the prime minister had clearly spelt out his intention to let me look after it only as a temporary measure.”

Aiyar, whose main portfolio was panchayati raj, said, “Panchayati raj was extremely close to my heart, particularly because it was a dream of (former prime minister) Rajiv Gandhi with whom I had worked quite passionately to enliven what Mahatma Gandhi had conceived decades earlier.”

Emphasising on the need to strengthen the panchayati raj structure in Uttar Pradesh, he said, “Uttar Pradesh would turn a new leaf if the panchayati raj structure in this state could be truly built and energised. I am not talking about the (chief minister) Mayawati type of panchayati raj. That was a farce, but the panchayati raj as conceived by the father of the nation, who considered it as part of real nation building.”

Aiyar said, “I am strongly of the view that the union government should stop giving funds to state governments against 139 centrally sponsored rural development schemes. Instead, the centre should start direct funding of panchayats, with a view to empowering the elected functionaries at the grassroot level to take decisions on schemes intended for their larger good.”

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