Mani Shankar Aiyar Wiki, Age, Wife, Family, Biography & More

Mani Shankar Aiyar

Mani Shankar Aiyar is an Indian politician, writer, social worker, and former diplomat. He is associated with the Indian National Congress. Mani Shankar is known for taking jibes at opponent political parties and politicians, especially Narendra Modi.


Mani Shankar Aiyar was born on Thursday, 10 April 1941 (age 83 years; as of 2024) in Laxmi Mansions, Lahore, British India (now Punjab, Pakistan). His zodiac sign is Aries. He did his schooling at Welham Boys’ School, Dehradun, and The Doon School, Dehradun. While studying at the Doon School, Aiyar was an editor of The Doon School Weekly. He attended St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi, to pursue a B. A. in Economics. Later, he pursued a two-year B.A. in Tripos in economics (it later became an M.A. according to the Oxbridge tradition) at Trinity Hall, Cambridge at the University of Cambridge. [1]MyNeta At the University of Cambridge, he was a member of Trinity Hall and the Marxist Society. While studying at Cambridge, Mani Shankar joined student politics and once contested the presidential elections. At that time, Rajiv Gandhi, who was his junior at both the Doon School and the University of Cambridge, supported him in the elections.

An old picture of Mani Shankar Aiyar with Rajiv Gandhi

An old picture of Mani Shankar Aiyar with Rajiv Gandhi

In the early sixties, he sat for the Civil Service Examinations and cleared it, opting for the Indian Foreign Service (IFS). However, he soon received a Telegram saying that he had been rejected. Apparently, the British Information Service had sent a report to the Indian government about Mani Shankar’s radical days in England. Later, he rushed back to Delhi, where he received a file signed by Jawaharlal Nehru which read,

I have heard good reports of Mani Shankar Aiyar. He may be taken into the foreign service.”

Physical Appearance

Height (approx.): 5′ 6″

Hair Colour: Salt & Pepper

Eye Colour: Brown

Mani Shankar Aiyar


Parents & Siblings

Mani Shankar Aiyar’s father, Vaidyanatha Shankar Aiyar, was a chartered accountant, who died in a plane crash when Mani Shankar was 12 years old. His mother’s name is Bhagyalakshmi Shankar Aiyar. Mani’s mother worked as a teacher at the Doon School after the death of her husband. He has an elder brother, Swaminathan Aiyar, who is a journalist and columnist.

Mani Shankar Aiyar's brother Swaminathan Aiyar

Mani Shankar Aiyar’s brother Swaminathan Aiyar

Wife & Children

Mani Shankar Aiyar got married to Suneet Vir Singh (also known as Suneet Mani Aiyar) on 14 January 1973. Suneet Vir Singh follows Sikhism. Together, they have three daughters- Suranya Aiyar, a lawyer, Yamini Aiyar, a development consultant, and Sana Aiyar, an associate professor of history at MIT. Their daughter Yamini Aiyar is married to Congress leader S. Krishnakumar’s son Adarsh.

Mani Shankar Aiyar with his wife

Mani Shankar Aiyar with his wife

An old picture of Mani Shankar's wife and daughters

An old picture of Mani Shankar’s wife and daughters

Mani Shankar Aiyar's daughter Suranya Aiyar with her kids

Mani Shankar Aiyar’s daughter Suranya Aiyar with her kids

Mani Shankar Aiyar's daughter Yamini Aiyar with her husband and daughter

Mani Shankar Aiyar’s daughter Yamini Aiyar with her husband and daughter

Mani Shankar Aiyar's daughter Sana Aiyar

Mani Shankar Aiyar’s daughter Sana Aiyar

Other Relatives

Mani Shankar Aiyar’s nephew Vidya Shankar Aiyar is a former news anchor who worked with Channelnews Asia and CNN- IBN.

Mani Shankar Aiyar's nephew Vidya Shankar Aiyar

Mani Shankar Aiyar’s nephew Vidya Shankar Aiyar

Religion & Caste

Although Mani Shankar Aiyar was born into a Hindu Brahmin family, he denies his twice-born caste. [2]


12, Avaiyambalpuram, Mayiladuturai, Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu, Pin Code- 609 001


Mani Shankar Aiyar's signature

Mani Shankar Aiyar’s signature


Civil Servant

Mani Shankar Aiyar joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1963. From 1978 to 1982, he was posted as a diplomat in Pakistan, serving as India’s first consul-general in Karachi. In 1982, he was appointed as the Joint Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of External Affairs. He served in the position for around a year. Shankar served as the Joint Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office from 1985 to 1989. He resigned from the Indian Foreign Service in 1989 to pursue a career in politics and media.


Mani Shankar Aiyar entered politics by joining the Indian National Congress in 1989. He served as the Special Assistant to former Congress (I) President Late Shri Rajiv Gandhi from 1989 to 1991. In 1991, he was elected to the 10th Lok Sabha from the Mayiladuthurai constituency of Tamil Nadu. In the same year, he became a member of the Committee on Environment and Forests. A year later, he was elected to the All India Congress Committee (AICC).

Mani Shankar Aiyar attending a meeting of the Indian National Congress

Mani Shankar Aiyar attending a meeting of the Indian National Congress

From 1992 to 1996, he served as a member of the Committee on Human Resource Development and the Committee on External Affairs. Mani Shankar contested the Indian general elections in 1996 and 1998 from the Mayiladuthurai constituency of Tamil Nadu on a ticket of the Indian National Congress but lost. In 1998, he was appointed as the Secretary of the All India Congress Committee.

Mani Shankar Aiyar with Rahul Gandhi at an event

Mani Shankar Aiyar with Rahul Gandhi at an event

In 1999, he contested the general elections from the Mayiladuthurai constituency of Tamil Nadu on a ticket from the Indian National Congress and got elected to the 13th Lok Sabha. He served as a member of the Committee on Urban and Rural Development from 1999 to 2004. Meanwhile, he also served as a member of the Committee on Public Undertakings. On 23 May 2004, he was appointed as the Union Cabinet Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas and Union Cabinet Minister for Panchayati Raj.

Mani Shankar taking the oath as the Union Cabinet Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas

Mani Shankar taking the oath as the Union Cabinet Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas

During his term as the Minister of Panchayati Raj, Mani Shankar helped in organising seven Round Tables of State Panchayati Raj Ministers which led to the signing of MoUs with state governments. He further recommended a roadmap for the computerization of PRIs. He also persuaded the Planning Commission to make it mandatory to consult Panchayats while preparing district-level plans during the 11th Plan.

Mani Shankar Aiyar with Manmohan Singh at an event

Mani Shankar Aiyar with Manmohan Singh at an event

On 28 January 2006, the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas was taken away from him and he was given charge of two additional ministries including the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports and the Ministry of Development of the North Eastern Region. He then contested the Lok Sabha elections from the Mayiladuthurai constituency of Tamil Nadu on a ticket of the Indian National Congress but faced a defeat. He was once nominated as a member of parliament from Rajya Sabha.

Mani Shankar Aiyar at an event

Mani Shankar Aiyar at an event


Mani Shankar Aiyar is a well-known political columnist with special interest in grassroots democracy and Indian foreign policy. He has written and edited several books including-

  • How To Be A Sycophant (1990)
  • Rajiv Gandhi: The Great Computer Scientist of India (1991)
  • Remembering Rajiv (1992)
  • One Year in Parliament (1993)
  • Pakistan Papers (1994)
  • Knickerwallahs, Silly-Billies and Other Curious Creatures (1995)
  • Rajiv Gandhi’s India, 4 vols. (General Editor) (1997)
  • Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist (2004)
  • A Time of Transition: Rajiv Gandhi to the 21st Century (2009)
  • Acche Din? Ha! Haa! (2015)

    Mani Shankar Aiyar during the launch of one of his books

    Mani Shankar Aiyar during the launch of one of his books

  • Memoirs of A Maverick: The First Fifty Years (1941–1991) (2023)

    Mani Shankar Aiyar's book Memoirs of A Maverick - The First Fifty Years (1941–1991)

    Mani Shankar Aiyar’s book Memoirs of A Maverick: The First Fifty Years (1941–1991)


  • ‘Outstanding Parliamentarian Award’, by the then President of India Pratibha Devisingh Patil (2006)


Comparing Veer Savarkar With Mohammed Ali Jinnah

In 2004, while Mani Shankar Aiyar was serving as the Cabinet Minister, he went on a tour of the Andamans. During his visit to the Cellular Jail in Andamans, Mani Shankar Aiyar compared Hindutva ideologue Veer Savarkar with Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, saying that both of them shared a divisive philosophy. He further ordered to remove Savarkar’s name and quote from a memorial in Port Blair and also suggested replacing it with quotes from Mahatma Gandhi. The incident led to agitations by the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. Later, the Indian National Congress distanced itself from his view. [3]The Economic Times

Criticised For Mocking Hans Raj College And Kirori Mal College

In September, he was invited to his alma mater St. Stephen’s College to speak on the topic Governance and Corruption: Is Panchayati Raj A Solution?’ While addressing the students, he went far from the topic and began making fun of Hansraj College and its alumnus Ajay Maken, saying that Maken’s only handicap in life was the college he went to. He further went on to belittle the Kirori Mal College by saying that actor Amitabh Bachchan was the only achievement of KMC. When the agitated students of Hansraj College approached Aiyar, he further mocked them. Later, when questioned about the incident by the media, he refused to apologise and again made fun of the institutions. [4]The Times of India

Condemned For His ‘Chaiwala’ Jibe At Narendra Modi

In 2014, days before the general elections in India, Mani Shankar Aiyar, during an event, while hinting towards Narendra Modi said that a tea seller can never become the Prime Minister of India. He said,

I promise you in 21st Century Narendra Modi will never become the Prime Minister of the country. …But if he wants to distribute tea here, we will find a place for him.”

His comments were criticised by many after which The Indian National Congress distanced itself from his remarks, saying that it was his personal opinion not of the party. [5]The Indian Express

Inappropriate Remarks on the Paris Attacks

In November 2015, after Paris suffered deadly terror attacks by ISIS, Mani Shankar claimed that the attacks were in response to France banning the Hijab. He further justified the shooting of Charlie Hebdo as a counteraction to the death of Muslims. However, his party members disapproved of his comments and said that he should make statements after careful consideration. [6]Hindustan Times

Remarks Against Narendra Modi On A Pakistani TV Channel

In 2015, during a panel discussion on a Pakistani news channel, Mani Shankar Aiyar said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was required to be removed from his post to resume talks between India and Pakistan. His remarks didn’t go well with the Bharatiya Janata Party that went on to describe Congress as India’s Pakistani agent. [7]DNA

Inappropriate Remarks on Narendra Modi

In December 2017, Mani Shankar Aiyar sparked a controversy for calling the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a ‘neech aadmi.’ During an event, Shankar said,

He (Modi) is neech kism ka aadmi who has no sabhyata (civility).”

PM Modi interpreted his comments as belonging from a nichli jaati (lower caste) and hit back at Aiyar during an election rally in Surat. Following Aiyar’s remarks, he was suspended from the primary membership of the Indian National Congress. [8]The Times of India Later, Shankar justified his comments on Modi by saying,

“My Hindi is not very good. Yes, I called Modi ‘neech’ but did not mean it as a low-born; I meant it as low.”

Threatened A Journalist

In 2019, Mani Shankar Aiyar stirred up a controversy by making a fist at the reporters, pushing away a microphone, and asking the journalist not to ask him any more questions during a media conversation. Apparently, he lost his control on the reporters who met him at the Punjab government guest house and threatened to hit them if they questioned him further. [9]India Today

Criticised For His Jibe At Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

In 2022, while addressing the public at the Congress Foundation Day, Mani Shankar Aiyar accused Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of breaking India into pieces. [10]Hindustan Times He said,

On the basis of religion, language, caste and culture, the people of Sangh Parivar have been breaking India into ‘tukde tukde’ (pieces). The Yatra is being undertaken against their wrong actions as there is a need for uniting India. We feel it.”

His remarks sparked a controversy and when asked by a media person if India was fragmented? he replied,

I can see that happen. Can’t you see… There is much effort to break it (country).”

Criticised For Calling Pakistanis ‘The Biggest Assets of India’

In February 2024, while addressing a crowd on the second day of the Faiz Festival at Alhamra in Pakistan’s Lahore, Mani Shankar Aiyar described Pakistanis as the biggest assets of India. He also recalled being warmly welcomed in Pakistan during his tenure as consul general in Karachi. He said,

“The Pakistanis, from my experience, have been the people who react perhaps overreact to the other side. If we are friendly, they are overfriendly and if we are hostile, they get over hostile…I have never been to a country where I was been welcomed with such open arms as I was in Pakistan.”

At the event, he also criticised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for refusing to hold dialogue with Pakistan, calling it his ‘biggest mistake.’ He remarks did not go down well with many Indians who criticised him for his statement. [11]India Today

Car Collection

He owns a Maruti Suzuki SX4 2010 Model and a Tata Sumo 1999 Model.

Assets & Properties

Movable Assets

  • Cash: Rs. 45,000
  • Bank Deposits: Rs. 1,54,72,600
  • Bonds, Debentures, and Shares: Rs. 50,000
  • NSS, Postal Savings: Rs. 8,03,584
  • Motor Vehicles: Rs. 4,30,000

Immovable Assets

  • Residential Building: Rs. 1,00,00,000

Note: The given estimates of movable and immovable assets are according to the year 2014. It excludes the assets owned by his wife and dependents (minor). [12]MyNeta


His total income for the financial year 2012-2013 was estimated to be Rs. Rs 88,91,638. [13]MyNeta

Net Worth

Mani Shankar’s net worth for the financial year 2013-2014 was estimated to be Rs. 2,22,74,508. It excludes the net worth of his wife and dependents (minors). [14]MyNeta


  • Mani Shankar Aiyar loves reading, writing, and listening to music in his leisure time.
  • After the partition of India, Laxmi Mansions in Lahore, the house where Mani Shankar was born, was marked as post-Partition refugee property. Later, the popular Pakistani writer and playwright Saadat Hassan Manto’s family resided at the house. [15]Live Mint
  • He has written columns for many newspapers and periodicals, in India and abroad.
  • Post the demise of his father, his family’s financial condition worsened and Mani’s mother had to negotiate with the Doon School to reduce his school fees and in return she taught at the school.
  • Mani Shankar Aiyar is a member of the Delhi Gymkhana Club and India International Centre, New Delhi.
  • Mani Shankar Aiyar was the Founder President of the Society for Secularism. He once served as the Trustee of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. He was also a member of the Governing Council of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies.
  • He has served as a Member of the Court at various universities including Visva Bharati (1991-96), Aligarh Muslim University (1991-96), Pondicherry University (1995-96), Jawaharlal Nehru University (1999-2000).
  • In 2004, when the UPA Government came into power, Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister of India, wanted to hand him over the economic portfolio. However, Mani Shankar hesitated to take it. Later, after a discussion with Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh carved out a new ministry of Rural Development- the Panchayati Raj, which was given to Aiyar.
  • In January 2024, a complaint was filed against Mani Shankar’s daughter Suranya Aiyar for her social media post that condemned the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ ceremony at the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. In the post, she mentioned that beginning from 22 January 2024 she would be observing a fast for three days to support the Muslims in India as she believed that injustice was being done with Muslims in the name of Hinduism and nationalism in Ayodhya. [16]India Today
  • Mani Shankar Aiyar is often invited by various educational institutes to give guest lectures to their students.
  • In 2007, when Aiyar was handling the sports and youth affairs ministry in India, he publically opposed Delhi’s bids for the 2014 Asian Games, saying that it would be better if India spent the money on building sports facilities for the poor instead of organizing the sporting event. Aiyar’s remarks played a crucial role in losing the hosting rights of the Asian Games. [17]Hindustan Times
  • In an interview, Mani Shankar Aiyar shared that he had visited Pakistan more than 40 times in his life. He further mentioned that Pakistan was his second favourite country. [18]The Wire

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