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Posted at: Dec 8, 2017, 2:22 AM; last updated: Dec 8, 2017, 12:16 PM (IST)

Cong jittery on Guj poll eve

Despite Aiyar’s apology, party insiders claim damage already done
Cong jittery on Guj poll eve
Prime Minister Narendra Modi being garlanded at ‘Gujarat Vikas Rally’ in Surat on Thursday. PTI

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 7

The Congress found itself on the defensive today after its senior leader Mani Shankar Aiyar called PM Narendra Modi “neech aadmi”, giving the BJP ample ammunition against the grand old party two days ahead of the first phase of Gujarat elections on December 9.

Snubbed by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Aiyar, who has been suspended from the party’s primary membership, quickly apologised for “misrepresentation” of his words that could harm Congress’ interests in Gujarat, but by then, party insiders acknowledged, the damage had been done. 

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“What I said was a Hindi translation of the English word “low”. I meant to say the language the PM used was very low. I never meant to say low born, like the PM has now misrepresented. I am told the word “neech” has several connotations in Hindi. Modi chose to distort it to mean low-born, but that is not what I meant nor is that my culture. I apologise for the misrepresentation the word used by me lent itself to, specially because it is going to harm Congress interests in Gujarat,” said Aiyar, whose “chaiwala” remarks for Modi had turned the 2014 Lok Sabha election tide in favour of the BJP. 

Aiyar still maintains he never used the word “chaiwala” for Modi. That said, Congress leaders felt the jitters all day today and privately said Aiyar’s remarks would damage party’s prospects in Gujarat. That explained the instant rebuke Aiyar attracted from Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi. 

Congress officially denounced Aiyar, who is famous in party circles for his self-goals. Aiyar’s remarks, which came in reaction to the PM’s attack on first PM Jawaharlal Nehru, attracted widespread condemnation from within the Congress. 

Former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said, “The ‘neech aadmi’ remark is totally unacceptable considering Congress’ commitment to civilised discourse. In any case, two wrongs don’t make a right. Civilised critique is more effective than personal attacks. Personal barbs always leave a scar and every harsh word increases the bitterness that weakens the nation’s unity apart from being politically counter-productive.”

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today claimed that it was because of the “vehement opposition” from PM Modi,  then the Gujarat Chief Minister, and other BJP leaders that the Congress-led UPA government could not introduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST). 

Addressing the media in Rajkot, the nerve centre of the Saurashtra region, Singh said the GST was originally proposed by the Congress, but it could not be taken up due to “vehement opposition” by Modi and the BJP party in general. Singh claimed if the Congress was allowed to bring the Bill, the GST would have been in a “much simpler form”.

Stoking controversy

Ye aadmi bahut neech kisam ka aadmi hai, is mein koi sabhyata nahi hai, aur aise mauke par is kisam ki gandi rajniti karne ki kya avashyakta hai? (This man is a very low-life person. He has no civility. And what is the need to indulge in this kind of dirty politics at this juncture)? Mani Shankar Aiyar, suspended from Cong

It is an insult to Gujarat and all Gujaratis and the Congress will realise the price it will have to pay for such uncivilised comments and ‘Mughlai’ mentality to call everyone else as vile and low-category people. To me, it does not matter, whether ‘neech’ or not, I will continue to live among the poor and work for their and the country’s welfare. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister

BJP and Prime Minister routinely use filthy language to attack the Congress. The Congress has a different culture and heritage. I do not appreciate the tone and language used by Aiyar to address the PM. Rahul Gandhi, Congress Vice-President 

Neither shocked nor surprised by Mani Shankar Aiyar 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, BJP Chief


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