Debating India

INDIA

Old Stephanians make LS XI

Friday 11 June 2004

On a sunny December day in 1959, four young men lazed on the lawns of Mission College in Delhi, a blade of grass between their teeth and not a bother in the world. One of them stirred.

"What do we do after leaving college?" he asked. "Join the foreign service, of course," chorused his mates. And of course, they all made it.

A random group of four walking into the hallowed ranks of the country’s diplomatic corps: an indication of India’s narrow social base?

This was the musing of Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyer in a reminiscence written in "The Stephanian", the college magazine, in the issue published to celebrate the centenary of St Stephen’s College in 1981.

Now, Aiyer is part of a "Stephanian Eleven" in the 14th Lok Sabha, probably the largest "single family" representation in Parliament.

A symbol of the college’s elitism? "It is unfair to say so," Aiyer told TNN recently, adding, "St Stephen’s is a centre of excellence, not a den of elitism."

Aiyer recalled Mahatma Gandhi’s close association with the college principals Rudra and Mukarji. " Bapu used to stay at Rudra’s house," the minister recalled, adding, "Who doesn’t know the Mahatma’s friendship with Charlie Andrews (who taught at Stephen’s)."

The Stephanians playing eleven in the new Lok Sabha include, apart from Aiyer, Kapil Sibal, Manvendra Singh, Lakshman Singh, Sandeep Dikshit, Sachin Pilot, Jatin Prasad, Manvendra Shaha Dushyant Singh, Omar Abdullah, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Rahul Gandhi, said Arvind Malhotra, secretary of the college’s alumni association.

Aiyer finds it natural that the majority of Stephanians in parliamentary politics is in the Congress. This, he said, is because "Stephanians tend to be secular". Aiyer considers the political affiliation of Arun Shourie and his ilk "aberrations from Stephania", the term used to refer to the ethos of the college.

"Shourie was the most articulate Nehruvian in my generation of Stephanians," he said, adding his was the Beatles generation, imbued with the philosophy that all you need is love.

"The first post-Independence generation, ours was also the one with Nehruvian vision. We are proud of our values of the Gandhi-Nehru tradition," Aiyer said.

The Gen Beatles Congress minister is happy on the arrival of Gen Next Stephanians in Parliament.

"Our open Nehruvian mind is comfortable with change. We could combine continuity with change," he said. Aiyer hoped more and more from his alma mater join politics. "I would like our women (Stephanians) also to step into politics," he said.

See online : The Times of India

P.S.

STEPHANIAN ELEVEN

? Mani Shankar Aiyer

? Kapil Sibal

? Manvendra Singh

? Lakshman Singh

? Sandeep Dikshit

? Sachin Pilot

? Jatin Prasad

? Manvendra Shaha

? Dushyant Singh

? Omar Abdullah

? Jyotiraditya Scindia

? Rahul Gandhi

in The Times of India, Friday, June 11, 2004.

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