Mani Shankar Aiyar Draws Rahul’s Ire for Calling PM Modi 'Neech Aadmi', Says Meaning Lost in Translation
Aiyar, who infamously dismissed Modi as a “chaiwalla” ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, on Thursday called the PM an uncultured man who practices dirty politics.
Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar speaking to presspersons clarifying his 'neech' comment against PM Modi in Delhi.
Aiyar, who infamously dismissed Modi as a “chaiwalla” ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, called the PM an uncultured man who practices dirty politics.
“Mujhko lagta hai ki ye aadmi bahut neech kisam ka aadmi hai, isme koi sabhyata nahi hai, or aise mauke par is kisam ki gandi rajniti karne ki kya avashyakta hai? (This man is a low-life person, he isn't cultured... at this moment why does he need to practice such dirty politics?)” he told reporters.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi was quick to take offence and, in a tweet, pointed out that the language used by Aiyar was contrary to the 'culture and heritage' of the party. He further said that the party expects Aiyar to apologise for what he said.
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 for what he said.— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) December 7, 2017
Shortly thereafter, Aiyar was seen talking to presspersons and said that what he meant was lost in translation. He said he was not aware about the nuances and different interpretations of the word 'neech'.
"I never meant low born. In English there is a clear distinction between low and low born. The meaning that Modi is drawing out of this is not my concern," said Aiyar.
He further added: "If it means low born, I seek mazrat (I apologise)."
On the same day, addressing a poll rally in Surat, Modi used the comment to appeal to Gujarati pride and urged the people to show their resentment by voting for the BJP.
“Congress called us "neech” but we are living according to our traditions. People of Gujarat will not tolerate this kind of language. People will give befitting reply on 9 and 14,” he said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley took strong exception to the statement and said it reflects Congress's 'mindset'.
"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’," said Jaitley in a tweet.
This is the second time in the span of a couple of days that Aiyar has played into the PM’s hands, showing he has refused to learn from history. Statements like these have landed him in the hot water in the past as well.
Aiyar had kicked up a political row by comparing the imminent elevation of Rahul Gandhi to succession under the Mughals. Responding to Shehzad Poonawalla's "dynastic politics" remark, Aiyar said the Congress leader from Maharashtra was free to contest against Gandhi, while there was no election during the Mughal rule when sons succeeded the emperors.
"When Shah Jahan came in the place of Jahangir, was there an election? When Aurangzeb came in place of Shah Jahan, was there an election? No. It was known to everyone earlier that the throne of the emperor will automatically go to the king's heir. If they fight amongst themselves, it is a different matter.
Following this statement by Aiyar, the PM said he wanted to congratulate the Congress for ushering in Aurangzeb Raj’.
Aiyar had managed to put his foot in the mouth ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when he called Modi a ‘chaiwala’. “I promise you, in the 21st century, Narendra Modi will never become the
Prime Minister of the country.... But if he wants to distribute tea here, we will find a place for him,” he had said after an AICC meeting.
The BJP and Modi used that remark to full advantage, selling it to the voters as an insult to Modi’s “humble roots”.
Aiyar vs Maken
He didn’t even spare his fellow Congressmen Ajay Maken in a September 2013 interview and called the then sports minster a “BA pass from Hansraj College”. He wondered how Maken could use “big words like ‘dichotomous’”.
Aiyar was referring to a letter Maken had written to then PM Manmohan Singh, accusing the former of being an “obstructionist” in the conduct of the Commonwealth Games.
Aiyar had addressed 26/11 Mumbai attacks mastermind and internationally designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed as ‘sahab’.
“Hafiz Sahab belongs to a minority group and the majority of Pakistanis want peace with India. Like Hafiz Sahab, we also have some Hafizs who do not want progress but thankfully common people here want better links. We want him arrested and taken to a terrorism court,” he had said.
After the terror attacks in Paris, Aiyar made a statement that was widely seen as a justification of the attack. “We have to admit that ever since there has been a war on terror after 9/11, many innocent Muslims have lost their lives. This is what America did in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is, therefore, only to be expected that there will be a backlash. Why should those who are less powerful not respond? Powerless people will find powerless means of responding when there are drone attacks,” he had said.