If BJP has Modi-Shah duo working tirelessly to make the party win in elections, Congress has a trinity sweating it out there to help BJP in achieving the same goal. This trinity is of Rahul Gandhi, Digvijaya Singh, and Mani Shankar Aiyar. Rahul Gandhi gives full tosses with his gaffes, Digvijaya Singh makes sure Hindu-Muslim issue is alive, and Mani Shnkar Aiyar aggressively scores self-goals just when BJP needs them.
Digvijaya has been silent of late after he was credited with allowing BJP to form the government in Goa despite not having a clear majority, but Rahul Gandhi compensated for his silence by running around temples and bringing the religious angle in the Gujarat elections. Kapil Sibal too pitched in to make sure the religious angle is alive and Digvijaya Singh’s absence is not felt. But Mani Shankar Aiyar has decided that he would discharge his duties himself and not leave it to Rahul Gandhi or Kapil Sibal.
Barely a couple of days after he issued a statement that was seen as comparing Rahul Gandhi taking over the post of Congress president with Mughal tyrant Aurangzeb taking over Delhi sultanate, Aiyar gave another talking point to BJP when he used the term “neech” – lowly, with casteist slurs – for Prime Minister Narendra Modi:
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?: Mani Shankar Aiyar, Congress on PM Modi pic.twitter.com/VrLM6TOlNr
— ANI (@ANI) December 7, 2017
The moment he said this, people knew Aiyar has scored a spectacular self-goal, and that too just in time for the BJP as the campaign for the first phrase of voting in Gujarat elections comes to an end today.
And Modi acknowledged the wonderful performance of Aiyar:
They can call me ‘Neech’- Yes, I am from the poor section of society and will spend every moment of my life to work for the poor, Dalits, Tribals and OBC communities. They can keep their language, we will do our work: PM Modi in Surat #GujaratElection2017 pic.twitter.com/XBZd6OqgSu
— ANI (@ANI) December 7, 2017
It should be noted that the Congress party has been playing the caste card in these elections smartly by propping up caste based leaders like Hardik Patel, Alphesh Thakore, and Jignesh Mewani. BJP was finding it challenging to openly play a counter caste card, as it would have defeated the messaging of Hindutva, which aims to unite the castes.
The party must be profusely thanking Mani Shankar Aiyar to have given them this opportunity. What is bonus is Aiyar said it in context of Modi talking about Babasaheb Ambedkar, so a caste context to the comment was too obvious to be missed.
This is not for the first time that Narendra Modi, who incidentally comes from a so-called lower caste, has been termed “neech” by a Congress leader. In the run up to 2014 general elections, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had used the same term, and Modi had responded to the jibe then by linking it to his humble origins:
सामाजिक रूप से निचले वर्ग से आया हूँ इसलिये मेरी राजनीति उन लोगों के लिये ‘नीच राजनीति’ ही होगी |
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 6, 2014
Mani Shankar Aiyar is widely believed to have helped Modi in his 2014 campaign when he used the term “chaiwala” (tea seller) as an insult for the then BJP Prime Ministerial candidate. Whether or not he has helped him again with this “neech” jibe will be known within a couple of weeks.
UPDATE: Sensing that this might upset Congress’ strategy of using caste to win the upcoming elections, Rahul Gandhi has tried to distance himself and the party from Aiyar’s remarks:
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