Mani Shankar Aiyar attacks Hooper and Fennel

"Fennel and Hooper were associated with Kalmadi since beginning. What right they now have to level allegations at the last minute. They are doing it just to save themselves," Aiyar told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.

He was responding to the remarks made by Fennel and Hooper yesterday. Fennell had expressed concerns over the Games Village preparation, saying that the condition of the residential zone there has "shocked" many contingents, while Hooper termed the Athletes Village as "filthy and uninhabitable".

Aiyar, who had a war of words with with the Games Organizing Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi earlier, once again took a jibe at him saying the rain god is resolving the conflict between them. The "most celebrated conflict between Kalmadi and me is being resolved by rain god. And I will accept the verdict," he said while delivering a speech at a programme "Let's Peace it together" organized by India Islamic Cultural Centre and Indian Council of Human Relations to celebrate International Day of Peace.

Asked whether the rain god listened to him in this issue, Aiyar, however, hastened to add," I had not prayed to the God for it". He at the same time said this is a tough situation and he is worried that the image of the country does not get a beating. "Just a few days are left now. Perhaps we should have been ready by 2007 as we had promised to complete all other preparations except the Commonwealth village by then."

Aiyar's remarks came a day after the government already under attack over preparations and cleanliness at the Games Village, faced further embarrassment when an under-construction foot over bridge collapsed which was followed by a false ceiling falling apart at a Games venue. Touching on the issue of Kashmir, Aiyar said that the separatists were always in minority in the Valley but the majority today has been alienated by "brutal use of lethal bullets" against youths and children there.

He rued that the peace period in the Valley was not used gainfully. "We have had many years of peace. We did not avail of the opportunity to reach out to elements whom we are now trying to reach in this hour of crisis," Aiyar said.

Aiyar added that while the situation is normal, the "search must go on to find a solution". He cited the example of North East saying that ultimately it was political process, through which peace was brought about there and not through Army or other security forces.

Arguing that the "root problem is emotional" in Kashmir, the Congress leader said that reaching out to people is necessary to solve this "very serious problem".
On the issue of Maoism, Aiyar said that the real problems need to be addressed "rather than describing all those who picked up guns as criminals".

Aiyar had in the past supported senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh's disapproval of Home Minister P Chidambaram's handling of the Maoist problem. He said there is a need to examine why people of the country are rising against the state and how can they be reconciled. Aiyar also disagreed with India snapping bilateral talks with Pakistan after Mumbai terror strikes saying the need was to "intensify talks" at that moment. He said there can be no military solution to the problems between India and Pakistan.

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