A day ahead of the first phase of elections to Gujarat assembly, Congress found itself in an embarrassing position after party leader Mani Shankar Aiyar sparked off a controversy, calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi a 'neech aadmi'. In a quick damage control exercise, Congress suspended the senior leader from its primary membership.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi deprecated Aiyar's language against the prime minister and asked him to apologize which the former Union Minister did, claiming his knowledge of Hindi was not good. He also maintained that he never called Modi a "low born".
"I meant a low-minded person when I said 'neech'. I tend to think in English when I speak in Hindi as Hindi is not my mother tongue. I never meant low-born. In English, there is a clear distinction between 'low' and 'low-born'. So if it has some other meaning or it means 'low-born' only, then I apologise for the wrong translation. The word I used has different meanings and the meaning Prime Minister Modi is making out is not what I meant," he said.
As Aiyar's remarks that Modi was a "neech aadmi" (low man) in the context of his criticism of the Congress vis-a-vis B.R. Ambedkar snowballed, the prime minister referred to it in an election meeting in Surat and attacked the Congress leader, saying he called him a "neech jaati" (low caste).
This is not the first time Aiyar has made a derogatory remark about the prime minister.
He had, in January 2014, before the Modi-wave took the nation by surprise, said "Modi would never become prime minister, but he was welcome to serve tea to Congressmen."
The BJP had then turned the Congress leader's attack into a campaign asset - "chai pe charcha".
To this end, Aiyar said he had never called the prime minister a 'Chaiwala', adding, "You can go on the internet and check all the videos."
With inputs from agencies