Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar kicked up another row by justifying his “Neech” jibe against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, inviting acrimonious war of words between the Congress and the BJP.
The Congress first defended Aiyar but later condemned his comments in an apparent damage control exercise. The party also accused the PM of lowering the political discourse by using “downright insulting” and “abusive language” against his political opponents.
“We completely reject and condemn the remarks of the likes of Mani Shankar Aiyar and every other person who is violating the time-tested principle of self-discipline in political discourse, of mutual respect and adherence to ideas and ideology, and not to verbally abuse while fighting an election, to give due regard even to your worst political enemy as was shown by Rahul Gandhi on the floor of Parliament,” Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
He alleged that hatred, violence and abuse are the modus operandi of the BJP and not of the Congress. “We have seen how in the last five years, including in the current election, rage and revenge has blinded Narendra Modi in using completely unacceptable, downright insulting, abusive language for his political opponents,” Surjewala said.
The “truth” is that Modi has seriously lowered the prestige of the office of the Prime Minister by his choice of words, anger, uncontrollable rage, and by his quest to seek revenge against every Opposition leader, particularly Congress president Rahul and his family, he claimed.
Surjewala’s reaction came hours after Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said his party is not on the back foot regarding Aiyar’s remarks. Instead, it should be Modi who should be ashamed of his remarks on former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, he said.
“Mani Shankar Aiyar’s remarks are his own as stated by him in his article. The Congress is neither on the back foot nor ashamed of his remarks. It’s the PM who should be ashamed of lowering the dignity of the office he occupies by making disparaging remarks against former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The PM should apologise to the country for the abusive language that he has used,” Shergill said, referring to Modi recently saying Rajiv Gandhi’s life ended as ‘Bhrashtachari No 1’.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh seized on Aiyar’s justification and asked the Congress to respond on its leader’s comments. BJP’s IT Cell head Amit Malviya also referred to Congress leader Sam Pitroda, in the spotlight for his “hua to hua” remark on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao put out a tweet saying “Abuser-in-chief Aiyar” had returned to justify his 2017 ‘Neech’ jibe. “... Aiyar then apologised & hid behind poor Hindi excuse. Now he says he was prophetic. Congress revoked his suspension last year for filthy outburst. Double speak & arrogance of @INCIndia on display again!” he said.
“Pak-crony Aiyar has the audacity to call PM ‘anti-national’. Nation knows that @narendramodi ji is the epitome of ‘Rashtra Bhakti’. Aiyar is known for ‘Parivar Bhakti’ as a (political) slave of the dynasty. It isn’t surprising at all that all abusers are close Gandhi confidants.”
Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the fight on issues can be brutal but hatred and violence should not be used against each other.
Aiyar said in his article, “Modi will, in any case, be ousted by the people of India on May 23. That would be a fitting end to the most foul-mouthed Prime Minister this country has seen or is likely to see. Remember how I described him on 7 December 2017? Was I not prophetic?” Congress had suspended Aiyar after his personal attack on Modi, he noted, but the Opposition party revoked his suspension later.
Later, in Shimla, when reporters questioned him on the controversy, Aiyar said it was just one line in his article and he will not get involved in media’s “games”. “I am a fool, but not such a big fool,” he said.
He also hit out at Modi for promoting leaders who abused Opposition leaders even describing them as ‘Genghis Khan ki aulad’. “The truth is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will go down in history as the only PM who decimated, denigrated and annihilated the prestige of the office of the Prime Minister he holds, who violated every article of restraint and mutual respect written in the civilisation of the country, who chooses verbal abuse as a weapon to silence his critics when he has no answer on jobs on agrarian distress and on a failed economy,” he said.
In the article, Aiyar said he has found out why Modi “loathes” Jawaharlal Nehru so much -- because Nehru had a degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge, and was convinced that to pull Indians out of superstition, modern India must cultivate a “scientific temper”.
This, Aiyar said, drives Hindutva supporters “nuts because they like to believe the ‘udan khatolas’ of mythology were the earliest F-16s to be invented by Hindus, and that Hindu plastic surgery, not a transplant operation, is what led to an elephant’s head surmounting Lord Ganesh.”
“Both these stunningly illiterate claims come from the mouth of none less than the Prime Minister of our country, whose acquaintance with higher education has gone no further than lying about degrees from Delhi and Gujarat universities that he never got and who can obviously not tell a scientific proposition from a ‘dhokla’,” Aiyar wrote.