#BattleForGujarat: "Neech" comment creates a controversy

Frederick Owens
December 8, 2017

In 2014, Mani Shankar Aiyar had called Modi a "Chai Wala" and his remark triggered a massive controversy and the BJP had termed the statement as an insult of poor. "As far as I am concerned the bulk of my remarks dealt with Modi's very, very nasty remarks about the Congress, particularly with Gandhi's relationship with Ambedkar".

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said that Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyars '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.

The Prime Minister made the remark while inaugurating the Ambedkar International Centre in New Delhi that was conceived 23 years ago.

In a quick damage control exercise, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi immediately deprecated Aiyar's language against the prime minister and asked him to apologise, which the former Union Minister did, claiming his knowledge of Hindi was not good.

"Aiyar later said, "'Neech' word can have different interpretations, my intention was never to talk of PM's caste.I apologize if it also has a caste meaning.

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While addressing the session along with Pakistan's former foreign affairs minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, the bureaucrat-turned-politician was quoted by ANI saying, "There is a large section in India that believes Muslims were responsible for India's vivisection and therefore draws parallel between Muslims who created Pakistan and the Muslims who remained in India".

"Mujhko lagta hai ki ye aadmi bahut neech kisam ka aadmi hai, isme koi sabhyata nahi hai".

"This person is a "neech aadmi" (low-minded)".

Although Aiyar clarified that he never meant "low born" when he said "Neech Aadmi" and that he was not aware about the nuances and different interpretations of the word "neech", the Congress did not take this "gaffe" lightly.

Hours before the end of campaigning for first phase of Gujarat polls, Aiyar's controversial remark against PM Modi brought Congress back in the defensive mode, but Rahul Gandhi interfered timely and stopped the controversy from escalating. "Both the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said", Mr. Gandhi tweeted. The prime minister who was campaigning in Surat today, quickly latched onto this and said that the comments reflected the "Mughal" mindset of the congress party. I do not appreciate the tone and language used by Mani Shankar Aiyar to address the Prime Minister.

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