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Mani Shankar Aiyar's 'neech' remark about Modi re-ignites debate

In the middle of the Gujarat Assembly election in 2017, Aiyar had described Modi as “neech kism ka aadmi”.

By Our Bureau in New Delhi
  • Published 15.05.19, 4:54 AM
  • Updated 15.05.19, 4:54 AM
  • 3 mins read
Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar Telegraph file picture

An angry Mani Shankar Aiyar on Tuesday said he was being “hounded” by the media, which he said was trying to resurrect the controversy over his “neech aadmi” remark of 2017, and ordered reporters to go through his article fully instead of creating a false perception based on two lines.

The full article — published first in Rising Kashmir on Monday, headlined “On Cloud Nine of Nationalism” — condemned Prime Minister Narendra Modi for indulging in “anti-national” activity, spreading unscientific temper, insulting the armed forces, and suspected his “lying” was the outcome of “a compulsive psychological disorder”.

The Congress quickly distanced itself from Aiyar’s views.

The two lines which Aiyar said are not the crux of the matter are: “That (Modi’s ouster on May 23) 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?”

In the middle of the Gujarat Assembly election that day, Aiyar had described Modi as “neech kism ka aadmi”. The Prime Minister promptly interpreted it as a caste slur. The Congress was rattled and suspended Aiyar but many in the party felt Modi managed to garner enough sympathy to add a few more seats to his stock.

The Congress quietly revoked Aiyar’s suspension last year, but he wasn’t given any assignment. In his latest article, Aiyar re-ignited the “neech” debate by stating as the last line: “Was I not prophetic?”

The timing of the new article, when the last election phase is days away, generated much curiosity as the BJP and Modi pounced on his remark with full force.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi anticipated the fallout and tweeted immediately: “I’m pushing for a new language in politics. Let’s fight each other brutally on issues. Let’s fight hard on ideology. But... Let’s not use hatred and violence against each other. It’s bad for India.”

Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala disapproved Aiyar’s remark, saying: “Hatred, abuse and violence can be Modi’s weapons in politics but no Congressman should stoop that low. Some people do this to remain in news but the Congress does not support this tendency. That is not our tradition. Modi may be blinded by rage and revenge and has been using abusive language. But in the process, he annihilated political decency and the dignity of the high office he holds. Instead of giving sermons on decency, he should explain his own conduct.

“He called Sonia Gandhi Congress ki widhwa (widow), used expressions like pachaas crore ki girlfriend, patted Himachal BJP chief who gave filthy abuse to Rahul Gandhi, called Manmohan Singh a Pakistani agent. Amit Shah compared Opposition leaders with animals,” Surjewala added.

Asked about the timing of the article, Aiyar told The Telegraph: “Read the article. Don’t try to create a false impression using two lines.”

In the article, Aiyar referred to Jawaharlal Nehru’s commitment to the task of creating “scientific temper” which he said was “an expression that drives sanghis 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.”

Agreeing that educational qualification wasn’t essential for good leadership, he wrote: “But why lie about one’s educational qualifications — or lack of them? Unless, of course, such lying is a compulsive psychological disorder.”

He said Modi’s cloud-&-radar logic in the context of the Balakot air strike was “to insult our brave airmen and, above all, the Chief of Air Staff”; Aiyar also raked up the INS Viraat controversy and argued that Modi should have withdrawn his allegations after four of the senior-most naval officers clarified.

The BJP was quick to make the best of Aiyar’s comeback bid. The glee with which right-wing handles — many with “Chowkidar” prefixed to their names — pounced on Aiyar’s article was testimony to how much he was missed by Modi bhakts in the 17th Lok Sabha elections after he gifted the BJP the “chaiwala” comment in 2014.

BJP Rajya Sabha MP GVL Narasimha Rao tweeted: “Abuser-in-chief’ Aiyar returns to justify 2017 ‘Neech’ jibe at @narendramodi Ji. Aiyar then apologized & hid behind poor Hindi excuse. Now he says he was prophetic. Congr revoked his suspension last year for filthy outburst. Double speak & arrogance of @INCIndia on display again!”

BJP’s IT in-charge Amit Malviya tweeted: “Upset that Sam Pitroda was getting all the attention, the irrepressible Mani Shankar Aiyar pulls Pitroda’s foot out of his mouth and puts it in his... Reiterates and justifies his ‘Neech’ comment for PM!”

Aiyar’s low profile through this election season had spawned various WhatsApp conspiracy theories. Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta made a reference to one of them in his tweet: “Welcome back my good friend Mani Shankar Aiyar. Reassured that you weren’t there in Balakot. The BJP regretted your absence during the campaign but there is still the final over left.”

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