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Posted at: Dec 8, 2017, 2:22 AM; last updated: Dec 8, 2017, 12:15 PM (IST)

Cong suspends Aiyar for his Modi ‘neech’ remark

Rahul acts to save party from damage in Gujarat
Cong suspends Aiyar for his Modi ‘neech’ remark
Mani Shankar Aiyar

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

Ahmedabad, December 7

The Congress tonight suspended senior leader Mani Shankar Aiyar for calling PM Narendra Modi “neech aadmi”, a remark that gave the BJP ample ammunition against its rival on the eve of the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections.

The suspension came a little before 9 pm, hours after Aiyar was served an ultimatum by AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi to apologise to the PM. Following a rather “half-hearted regret” from Aiyar, Rahul decided to issue Aiyar a show-cause notice and suspend him from the party’s primary membership.

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“This is Congress’ Gandhian leadership which harbours a sense of respect even for rivals. Congress has issued a show-cause notice to Mani Shankar Aiyar and suspended him from the party’s primary membership. Will Modiji ever show such guts,” said Congress chief spokesman RS Surjewala as the party mounted a counter-attack. 

Insiders lauded Rahul’s tough call, saying a similar call on the eve of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when Aiyar turned the tide in BJP’s favour by calling Modi a “chaiwala”, could have helped dissipate the crisis. 

It is learnt the Congress saw Aiyar’s apology  even more damaging than his slur against the PM. This is what Aiyar said, “What I said was a Hindi translation of the English word ‘low’. I meant to say that 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. Mr Modi chose to distort it to mean low-born but that is not what I meant... I apologise for the misrepresentation of the word..., specially because it is going to harm Congress interests in Gujarat.”

His suspension, it was felt, was the only way to salvage the potential political damage of the statement.

Earlier in the day, Rahul tweeted: “The 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...”

The party is still grappling with the consequences of its MP Kapil Sibal’s request  to defer the Ayodhya verdict. A Congress leader said: “If what Sibal said amounted to political suicide, what Aiyar said amounts to political burial.”

‘Move strategic’

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who termed Aiyar’s remark against the PM as a “deliberate casteist statement”, claimed his suspension from the party was “strategic”. He said the Congress had challenged the weaker and backward sections. “The strength of India’s democracy will be displayed when a person of humble background politically defeats the dynasty and its representatives,” the Finance Minister tweeted. PTI


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