Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s remarks, ‘neech kisam ka aadmi, for Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes at a time when major political parties the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress Party are locked in a photo finish battle for Gujarat Assembly elections to be held on 9 and 14 December.
Aiyar was giving his views to a news channel regarding Prime Minister Modi’s earlier comment targeting Congress of erasing the contributions of Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar in nation building and now asking for votes in his name. The PM broached the topic of Congress’ neglect of Dr. Ambedkar in his election rallies in Gujarat on Wednesday.
Mani Shankar Aiyar referred the PM as a ‘neech kisam ka aadmi’ who can go to any level to take political advantage of any situation and has no civility.
Looking at the widespread negativity that the comment attracted the Congress on Friday suspended his primary membership from the Congress Party and has issued a show-cause notice to him.
The comments were condemned by parties all across the board and the Congress Vice President was quick to point out that Mani’s comments were not in good taste and that he should apologise to PM Modi. Rahul Gandhi tweeted on Thursday, saying;
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 Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer to address the PM. Both the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said.
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) December 7, 2017
The damage, however, seems to have happened, as PM Modi himself jumped on the opportunity served to him on a platter by the Congressman and lambasted Aiyar for addressing him as ‘neech aadmi’ and laced it with ‘him being targeted for his humble background’ by the opposition time and again.
PM further linked the upcoming Gujarat elections and the OBC card by saying that people are listening to what is being said but his caste and background. PM Modi wrote on Twitter;
I have nothing to say on a ‘wise’ Congress leader calling me ’Neech’. This is the Congress mindset. They have their language and we have our work. People will answer them through the ballot box. https://t.co/2McoZnaoar pic.twitter.com/icGqAphUzy
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 7, 2017
The suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, however, explained to reporters the actual context with which he had commented on Modi. Aiyar said, “I meant to say a person of ‘low level’ thought when I referred Modi as ‘neech aadmi’, I have a language issue, as I think in English but was speaking in Hindi, which caused the wrong usage of the word, as Hindi is not my mother tongue. I never wanted to mean that Modi was a low born. I apologise if it turned to mean different from what I wanted to say.”
The BJP was also quick to cash in on the issue and all its senior leaders have since been commenting on the topic, trying to cause as much damage as possible to Congress prospects in the elections beginning December 9.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, that though fun and satire was ok in politics, abuse is not good in politics. Amar Singh called Aiyar a habitual offender and BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said that the people of Gujarat have been offended by Aiyar’s comments.
Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath termed Aiyar’s comment as unfortunate and shameful and said people of Gujarat will teach Congress a lesson in the coming elections. While, BJP President Amit Shah twitted;
Neither shocked nor surprised by Mani Shankar Aiyar’s referring to PM as ‘Neech.’ This is the culture of the Congress Party. People of Gujarat will punish anti-poor, anti-Dalit, anti-Tribal and anti-OBC Congress.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) December 7, 2017
It seems the Congress has gone on a back foot due to Aiyar’s comments and is now in a face-saving mode just two days before the state goes to elections with the first phase being on 9 December. By announcing disciplinary action against Aiyar the Congress is trying to reflect its ‘Gandhian Values’ and making an effort to contain the damage already done.