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Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar slams Prime Minister for criticising Congress at Ambedkar International Centre launch, Modi cries foul in Gujarat poll rally

In comments that are reminiscent of his ‘he can serve tea’ jibe at Narendra Modi, senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar once again embarrassed his party on a crucial day when campaigning for the first phase of the Gujarat elections were to come to an end by calling the Prime Minister a “neech Aadmi” (low-level man).

Almost as if waiting for an opportunity to be ‘insulted’ by the Congress so that he could use it to his advantage and that of the BJP in the Gujarat assembly polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed Aiyar and termed the comments as indication of a “Mughal mentality”, thereby once again playing a communally divisive card that has helped the saffron party retain Gujarat for over two decades.

An embarrassed Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who is leading his party’s charge against the BJP in the Prime Minister’s home state sought to control the possible damage that Aiyar’s comments could wreak on the Congress in Gujarat, in view of Modi’s renewed offensive, by asking the Congress leader to apologise for his remarks.

Aiyar’s comment against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi came in response to Modi’s remarks made earlier on Thursday while he inaugurated the Dr Ambedkar International Centre in New Delhi. During his address, Modi made an indirect attack at the Congress party and the Nehru-Gandhi family, claiming that efforts had been made in the past to “wipe out the contributions of Baba Saheb (Ambedkar) towards nation building”.

With Rahul decrying Aiyar for his comments, the senior Congress leader promptly issued an apology but one that is likely to only rile the BJP and Prime Minister further. Aiyar insisted that he did not occupy any post in the Congress party and as a “freelance Congressi” he was free to reply to the Prime Minister “in his language” since Modi is “everyday using foul language against our leaders. Aiyar also sought to clarify that his “neech aadmi” remark was in no way a reference to Modi’s lower caste (the Prime Minister is a Teli by caste, belong to the OBC community) but meant to only say that the Premier is a “low-level” human being!

However, Modi and the BJP have already launched an offensive against the Congress, using Aiyar’s comments as ammunition.

With another week of campaigning left for the second phase of the Gujarat Assembly polls, one can be certain that the BJP and Modi will try use the “neech aadmi” comment to their advantage, especially since the Congress is said to be fast gaining political ground in the state with a recent opinion poll projecting a neck-to-neck vote share for the two key parties in the state – tied at 43 per cent – and only a slender victory for the BJP. Will the ground that Congress has gained under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership of the Gujarat campaign quickly slip; thanks to Aiyar’s gaffe? We’ll know on December 18 when the results for the polls are declared.

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