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‘Strategic suspension,’ says Jaitley after Congress acts against Aiyar for ‘neech’ remark on PM Modi

On Thursday, Mani Shankar Aiyar called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “neech aadmi” who does “dirty politics” after the PM targeted the Congress. The Congress has suspended him from the primary membership of the party.

assembly elections Updated: Dec 08, 2017 07:39 IST
Mani Shankar Aiyar,'Neech aadmi',Narendra Modi
Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar(File photo)

Finance minister Arun Jaitley has termed Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s ‘neech’ remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “deliberate casteist statement”, adding that his suspension from the party was “strategic” and urged people to see through “this game”.

Jaitley lashed out at Aiyar, saying his remark displays the mindset that “only one elite family” can rule this country.

On Thursday, Aiyar called Modi a “neech aadmi” who does “dirty politics” after the PM targeted the Congress. The Congress has suspended Aiyar from the primary membership of the party and issued him a show-cause notice for his remark.

Reacting to Aiyar’s remark, Jaitley said the Congress party has challenged the weaker and backward sections of India by calling the prime minister ‘neech’.

“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 said in a tweet.

In another tweet, Jaitley said, “Mani Shankar Aiyer’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’.”

Earlier, Aiyar claimed that it was the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru who recognised Ambedkar’s potential.

“What is the need for doing dirty politics on such an occasion?” he asked after the prime minister attacked the Congress while inaugurating the Ambedkar International Centre that was conceived 23 years ago.

Aiyar remark came after his “chai wallah” jibe, also aimed at Modi ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, and Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s “maut ka saudagar” (merchant of death) comment dating back to 2007, also targeting Modi.

Modi, campaigning in Gujarat ahead of the first phase of polling to the state assembly on Saturday, lost no time in terming Aiyar’s remark an “insult to Gujarat’s pride”.

The Congress rushed into damage control mode and Aiyar apologised after being chastised by party vice president Rahul Gandhi.

The BJP and Congress are locked in an intense battle for Gujarat, Modi’s home state, where the BJP has been in power for 22 years.

“Isn’t it an insult to Gujarati asmita (pride)? Isn’t it an insult of Indian ethos? They can call me ‘neech jaati’. Yes, I am from the poor section of the society and will spend every moment of my life to work for the poor, Dalits, tribals and backward classes,” Modi said at an election rally in Surat. As the crowd chanted “Modi, Modi”, he said: “They can keep their language and we will do our work.”

“Ye aadmi bahut neech kisam ka aadmi hai, ismein koi sabhyata nahi hai, aur aise mauke par is kisam ki gandi rajneeti karne ki kya avashyakta hai? (This man is a low-life person, he isn’t cultured... on this occasion, why does he need to do dirty politics?),” Aiyar told a news agency earlier in the day, reacting to Modi’s allegation that the Congress had tried to “erase” Dr BR Ambedkar’s contributions to nation-building during a function to open the Ambedkar International Centre in the Capital.

Gandhi was quick to try and contain the damage. “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 Aiyar to address the PM. Both the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said,” he tweeted.

Congress party’s chief spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted that the party had issued a showcause notice to Aiyar and suspended him from the primary membership. “This is Congress party’s Gandhiwaad and sense of respect towards its rivals. Can Modiji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) ever show such conviction?” he posted on the micro-blogging site.

First Published: Dec 08, 2017 07:38 IST