Congress suspended Mani Shankar Aiyar on Thursday after the former Union Minister passed a filthy comment about the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He explained Prime Minister as a ‘neech aadmi’ .
Aiyar’s choice of words was not something bad which only got a ferocious attack from Modi in Surat but riled his own party functionaries who feared potential risk to its electoral prospects due to the diplomat-turned-politician’s foot-in-the-mouth penchant. “He (Modi) is neech kism ka aadmi who has no sabhyata (civility),” Aiyar had said earlier in the day after Modi blamed Congress of using Dalit icon B R Ambedkar merely to get votes and trying to finish his contribution in building India.
During an election rally in Surat, Modi hit back at Aiyar and said dejected Congress functionaries are not in a good state of mind and have crossed all limits of decency. “Mani Shankar Aiyar has called me neech and from nichli jaati (lower caste). Is this not an insult to Gujarat? Is it not an insult to India’s great values? But people of Gujarat will take revenge on December 18 and teach you the precise meaning of neech,” Modi said.
The PM said Aiyar’s remarks smacked of Congress’s “Mughal mindset” that differentiated between the lower and upper castes. “I, as chief minister of Gujarat for 14 years and now as PM, have done nothing that has forced citizens to hang their heads in guilt. If Congress feels that working for the poor and needy is something too low, I can only wish them good luck,” he said amid chants of “Modi Modi”.
The PM even reminded Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s 10-year-old “maut ka saudagar” remark against him as he accused the rival of constantly insulting and conspiring against him. “Despite so many insults, I have not been vindictive as PM and BJP will always work to uphold the values of public life,” he said.
With a procession of BJP functionaries alleging that Aiyar’s controversial remark was a clear picture of the Nehru-Gandhi family’s arrogance and their sense of disgrace, and fear to grow that the indiscretion might hurt the party in Gujarat, Congress which is ruled by Rahul Gandhi went into damage control. The party vice-president went on Twitter to disagree with Aiyar’s remark and asked him to feel sorry for it. “BJP and PM regularly use filthy language to attack the Congress party. The Congress has a diverse culture and heritage. I do not like the tone and language used by Mani Shankar Aiyar to address the PM. Both the Congress and I actually want him to apologise for what he said,” Rahul said.
Though Aiyar can be stubborn while holding his ground, he promptly obliged and blamed the derogatory remark on his poor Hindi. “My Hindi is not very good. Yes, I called Modi ‘neech’ but this did not mean it as a low-born; I meant it as low,” he said, remembering that his poor grasp of Hindi had failed him earlier too when he called former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee a “nalayak” PM.
However, this did not fully assuage the worry of the potential fallout of Aiyar’s slur against the PM in a state wherein 2007, Sonia calling Modi “maut ka saudagar” had worse boomeranged on her party. Coming just after the controversy over Kapil Sibal for consciously seeking to delay resolution of the Ayodhya dispute by asking postponement of hearing in the SC until after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, many in the party showed concern over “self-goals” during the last lap of the Gujarat polls. Former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit, in fact, made an effort to sabotage Rahul when he is about to take over as party president.