Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s “neech aadmi” comment on Prime Minister Narendra Modi came back to haunt him as the party suspended him from primary leadership and also issued a show-cause notice. The development comes after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi asked Aiyar to apologise to the PM, saying it was not the culture of the Congress Party.
With just two days to go for the first phase of Gujarat elections on December 9, the move seems like a damage control on part of the Congress. Congress communications incharge Randeep Surjewala said the action showed the party’s “Gandhian leadership” and respect for its rival. He asked whether PM Modi would dare to act similarly. “The Congress party has served a show cause notice to Mani Shankar Aiyar and suspended him from the primary membership of the party,” PTI quoted Surjewala as saying.
Earlier in the day, Aiyar had attacked the prime minister for saying that the Congress tried to erase the contribution of BR Ambedkar in nation-building. Aiyar said the comments by the PM showed his low-level mindset and one bereft of any manners. “Mujhko lagta hai ki ye aadmi bahut neech kisam ka aadmi hai, isme koi sabhyata nahi hai. Aise mauke par is kisam ki gandi rajniti karne ki kya avashyakta hai? (This shows the low-level mindset of the PM and one bereft of any manners. What is the need of doing such dirty politics on such an occasion).”
Retorting to Aiyar, PM Modi said Congress leaders were speaking in a language that was not acceptable in a democracy. “One Congress leader, who has studied in best institutions, served as a diplomat, was a minister in Cabinet, he said Modi is ‘neech’. This is insulting. This is nothing but a Mughlai mindset,” Modi said at a rally in Surat. Modi said the people of Gujarat would give a fitting answer for using such deplorable language. “What all have they called us – donkeys, neech, gandi naali ke keede…maut ka saudagar. We will answer them for their mindset by our votes on 9th and 14th,” the PM said.
However, soon after Rahul Gandhi asked the senior leader to apologise for his remarks. “BJP and PM routinely use filthy language to attack the Congress party. The Congress has a different culture and heritage. I do not appreciate the tone and language used by Mani Shankar Aiyer to address the PM. Both the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said,” Gandhi tweeted.
Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, a chastised Aiyar did offer a conditional apology but it failed to break any ice. Reacting to Gandhi’s remarks, said, “Why was PM taking a jibe at Congress and Rahul Gandhi at inauguration of a Centre on Baba Saheb Ambedkar? Everyday the Prime Minister is using foul language against our leaders. I am a freelance Congressi, I hold no post in the party, so I can reply to PM in his language. I meant low level when I said ‘neech’, I think in English when I speak in Hindi as Hindi is not my mother tongue. So if it has some other meaning then I apologise. I never called Modi a low born.”