NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday tore into the Congress, making full use of the opportunity provided by the remarks of senior leader Mani Shankar Aiyar. Modi listed a number of names her has been called by various Congress leaders over the years, and questioned of the grand old party has a problem with him because he is from a ‘lower caste’ from Gujarat.
PM Modi kept up the line of attack on the Congress at an election rally in poll-bound Gujarat’s Sabarkantha district. “Why am I ‘neech’? Because I was born poor, because I am of a lower caste, because I am a Gujarati? Is that why they hate me? Evidently, one Gujarati, a person born into a poor family has troubled them a lot,” Modi said.
Are these the kind of things we should say in public life… Where is the decency in the language Congress leaders have used for me? What did I do to deserve this? Is it my crime that the people of India have reposed their faith in me,” he said.
“Day and night the Congress has abused me. I keep quiet only because my priority is work,” PM Modi claimed.
Modi’s focal point of attack has shifted to what the Congress has said about him since Mani Shankar Aiyar’s interview on Thursday, in which he referred to PM Modi as ‘neech’. The word has caste connotations in Hindi.
Aiyar later apologised for the remark, and said since Hindi was not his mother tongue, he misspoke without understanding the connotations of the word.
Congress president-in-waiting Rahul Gandhi had distanced himself and his party from Aiyar’s comments and called for an apology. However, with the Gujarat elections around the corner, Aiyar was soon suspended from the primary membership of the party.
Aiyar has also previously gotten into this kind of trouble with Modi right before an election. In 2014, he said he would be willing to set up a tea stall outside the Congress office so Modi, then the BJP’s PM candidate, could sell tea.
The apparent denigration of PM Modi’s past selling tea on a railway platform had given the BJP a boost, to take advantage of which the party launched the ‘chai pe charcha’ campaign.