BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi played the caste card to hit back at the Congress on Tuesday, a day after Priyanka Vadra said he was indulging in “neech rajniti (low-level politics)”.
Giving her comments a caste spin, Modi tweeted, “As I belong to a socially backward section, they consider my politics to be neech rajniti… Some people cannot see that it is due to the renunciation, sacrifice and hard work of people of backward castes that the country has reached its current heights.”
Invoking his OBC background seemed to be part of a careful strategy to rally the backward castes on the eve of polling in 64 seats, including 15 in Uttar Pradesh and 7 in Bihar. “This neech rajniti will wipe the tears of thousands of people and free India of 60 years of misgovernance and vote bank politics,” tweeted Modi.
He also raised the issue at a rally in Domariyaganj in UP. “Is it a crime to be born in a backward caste? Did I insult anyone despite being born in a backward caste? Such a dirty blame has been put on me,” he said. “It is a fact that I was born in a backward caste but I can assure this country that my politics is not of low level. I have a dream of a united India, a better India.”
Seeking to play the victim, he said, “If I am wrong, you have the right to question Modi, but you are now abusing my caste… You can insult Modi as much as you like, you can hang him, but do not insult the lower castes… I was attacked and dubbed as a tea-seller as if it I had committed a crime. Questions were raised as to how he (Modi) can run the country… I have sold tea not the country… We are poor and downtrodden people from lower caste, but stop commenting on our lower caste.”
Modi also sought to clarify that he had not insulted late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at his rally in Amethi.
In her statement on Monday, Priyanka had said, “Inhone Amethi ki dharti pe mere shaheed pitaa ka apmaan kiya hai… Inki neech rajniti ka jawaab mere booth ke karyakartaa denge (He has insulted my martyred father on Amethi’s soil… My booth-level workers in Amethi will reply to his low-level politics).”
Reacting to Modi’s remarks, the Congress said he was deliberating “misinterpreting” facts. \”There is a difference between what Priyanka said and what Modi has understood. She has only said that this is low-level politics. He knows what he is saying, he knows that he is misinterpreting and he is doing it purposely. Because that is the way he is… He will give it a spin which has nothing to do with the facts,” said Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal.
In Lucknow, BSP chief Mayawati said Modi was trying to mislead the backward castes. \”Modi is playing backward caste card in UP. He is misleading people over a remark by a Congress leader, claiming that he belongs to the backward caste. He should come forward and tell his exact caste to the people,” she said.
Condemning his statement, Mayawati said, “I want to warn my OBC people, Muslims and even upper castes to remain cautious of Modi.”
Meanwhile, the BJP sought an apology from Priyanka. “Congress leaders are losing control over their language. An entire family is targeting Modi. Given the kind of language used for Modi, Priyanka should apologise,” said party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain.
“This is the word which she used, and particularly in the social context of India, the use of this word has to be avoided. When this word is used in relation to either the persona or the views of a person belonging to a backward community, you are giving rise to apprehensions,” said senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley.
— with PTI, Domariyaganj