Hours before the end of campaigning for the first phase of Gujarat assembly elections, Mani Shankar Aiyar once again did what the Congress was trying to avoid in Gujarat.
Led by party vice president Rahul Gandhi, Congress was giving a neck to neck fight to BJP for the first time in last 22 years in Gujarat. And the reason behind this was party’s sensible campaign against BJP and PM Modi on the grass root issues.
However, Aiyar’s remark not only brought the Congress in a defensive mode, but also triggered a controversy that could be avoided.
While inaugurating International Baba Saheb Ambedkar Centre in Delhi, PM Modi had accused Congress of disparaging Baba Saheb’s contribution for endorsing the interests of one family.
Reacting to PM Modi’s accusations, Aiyar, using derogatory language called PM Modi a “Neech Aadmi”.
Referring to PM Modi, he said, "This person is a 'Neech Aadmi'. He is not civilised and in a situation like this, there is no need to practise such dirty politics."
Though, the Congress criticising Aiyar, distanced itself from his statement, the BJP termed the remark as an “insult to the whole of Gujarat” and alleged the remark was made on Rahul Gandhi’s directions.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also slammed Mani Shankar Aiyar for calling him “neech” and said his comment showed the “Mughalai Mindset” of the Congress.
Modi’s attack and aggressive BJP
While addressing a rally in Surat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday slammed Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar and said, “They can call me 'Neech'- Yes, I am from the poor section of society and will spend every moment of my life to work for the poor, Dalits, Tribals and OBC communities. They can keep their language, we will continue doing our work.”
Modi was quick enough to say that the people of Gujarat will answer Aiyar when they vote for assembly elections on December 9 and 14.
Modi said, “I beg to the people of India- please let them be. Let them keep calling me 'Neech' we will not respond. We do not have this mindset and want to congratulate them for theirs. If anything- we will answer them for their mindset with our votes on 9th and 14th.”
Distancing from personal attacks
Learning from the political damage in 2014 Lok Sabha election cause by personal attacks against PM Modi, Rahul Gandhi had given clear guidelines to Gujarat Congress leaders not to resort to attacking Modi personally.
In 2014, Mani Shankar Aiyar had called Modi a “Chai Wala” and his remark triggered a massive controversy and the BJP had termed the statement as an insult of poor. Hence, Congress had to face humiliating defeat.
This was the reason, Rahul Gandhi used issues like GST, demonetisation, jobs, education and health in a bid to counter BJP in Gujarat.
More or less, Rahul has succeeded in his strategy as BJP was also hitting back Congress only on these issue.
The damage control of Rahul Gandhi by suspending Aiyar
Hours before the end of campaigning for first phase of Gujarat polls, Aiyar’s controversial remark against PM Modi brought Congress back in the defensive mode, but Rahul Gandhi interfered timely and stopped the controversy from escalating.
Learning lessons from the mistakes of past, Rahul rebuked Aiyar and hours later Congress suspended him from party’s primary membership.
Congress also issued a show cause notice to him for calling PM Modi a “Neech Aadmi.”
Rahul said, “I do not appreciate the tone and language used by Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar to address the Prime Minister and both Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said.”
He said, “BJP and PM Modi routinely use filthy language to attack Congress but this is not our party’s culture and heritage.”
This was not the first time Aiyar’s has sparked a controversy by using derogatory language against PM Modi. Earlier, during 2014 Lok Sabha polls, he had called Modi a "Chai wala", and the BJP had taken advantage of the controversy by terming it “insult of poor.”