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NEW DELHI: Minutes after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi nudged Mani Shankar Aiyar to apologise for his “neech aadmi” remark against PM Modi, the embattled leader issued a carefully-worded defence for his pointed criticism of the Prime Minister.
“Why was PM taking a jibe at Congress and Rahul Gandhi at inauguration of a Centre on Baba Saheb Ambedkar? Everyday PM is using foul language against our leaders. I am a freelance Congressman, I hold no post in the party, so I can reply to PM in his language,” Aiyar was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Aiyar then backtracked on his use of the epithet “neech aadmi” with regards to PM Modi, clarifying that he did not mean to insinuate that the Prime Minister was low-born and had only been referring to the BJP leader’s “low level” or regressive politics.
“I did not mean to say that the PM is low-born. 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 apologize,” he said.
I meant low level when I said ‘neech’, I think in English when I speak in Hindi as Hindi is not my mother tongue. S… https://t.co/o8P04vNMpY
— ANI (@ANI)
Aiyar also conceded that his remarks had embarrassed the Congress, after Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter to state that he did not appreciate “the tone and language” used by the senior leader to take aim at PM Modi and directed him to tender an unconditional apology for the derogatory attack.
BJP and PM routinely use filthy language to attack the Congress party. The Congress has a different culture and her… https://t.co/SmSL3WmLsm
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG)
However, it seems that Aiyar’s cleverly crafted apology has not appeased the BJP, as the party unleashed a barrage of fulminations against the Congress leader and by extension, his party.
Construing Aiyar’s statement as a casteist attack, PM Modi dubbed it as an “insult” to Gujarat and a reflection of “Mughal mentality”.
“Congress leaders are speaking in a language that is not acceptable in 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,” PM Modi said at a public rally in Gujarat, which goes to polls in two days.
Congress leaders are speaking in a language that is not acceptable in democracy. One Congress leader, who has studi… https://t.co/BRFjI8cCZV
— narendramodi_in (@narendramodi_in)
In a similar vein, Union Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad charged that Aiyar’s remark reeked of feudal arrogance and “darbari soch” (sycophancy) that is inherent in the Congress party.
Sharpening the attack on Congress, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the party had denigrated the weaker and backward sections of India by calling the prime minister ‘neech’.
“Mani Shankar Aiyar’s ‘Neech’ remark against the Prime Minister displays a mindset that only one elite family can be a ruler and the rest are only the ‘Neech’,” Jaitley said in a tweet.
Mani Shankar Aiyer’s ‘Neech’ remark against the Prime Minister displays a mindset that only one elite family can be… https://t.co/w2U3VseNfr
— Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley)
Earlier in the day, the prime minister, while inaugurating the Ambedkar International Centre, hit out at the Congress by alleging that parties seeking votes in the name of the architect of the Indian Constitution had tried to erase his contribution to nation building.
At this, Aiyar questioned why politics was being brought up on such an occasion and accused PM Modi of practising dirty politics.
“Mujhko lagta hai ki ye aadmi bahut neech kisam ka aadmi hai, isme koi sabhyata nahi hai, or aise mauke par is kisam ki gandi rajniti karne ki kya avashyakta hai?” Aiyar told ANI.
No stranger to controversy, the Congress leader has a track record of taking digs at PM Modi, referring to him as “chaiwalla” and “Aurangzeb” in the past.