Congress suspended leader and former Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar on Thursday after Aiyer stoked controversy by referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a 'neech aadmi'. His statements resulted in swift backlash as PM Modi, BJP leaders, as well as other Congress leaders, slammed his choice of words.
"He (Modi) is neech kism ka aadmi who has no sabhyata (civility)," Aiyar said on Thursday, after the PM accused Congress of using Dalit icon B R Ambedkar to get votes.
PM Modi responded to Aiyar's quip at an election rally in Surat, saying that Aiyar's comments are an insult to Gujarat.
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"Mani Shankar Aiyar has called me neech and from nichli jaati (lower caste). Is this not an insult to Gujarat? Is it not an insult to India's great values? But people of Gujarat will take revenge on December 18 and teach you the precise meaning of neech," Modi said.
"I, as chief minister of Gujarat for 14 years and now as PM, have done nothing that has forced citizens to hang their heads in shame. If Congress feels that working for the poor and distressed is something too low, I can only wish them good luck," he said.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi attempted damage control by tweeting disapproval of Aiyar's comments and asking him to apologise.
"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 Mani Shankar Aiyar to address the PM. Both the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said," Rahul said.
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
Meanwhile, Aiyar blamed the controversy on his poor Hindi.
"My Hindi is not very good. Yes, I called Modi 'neech' but did not mean it as a low-born; I meant it as low," said Aiyar.
Ahead of the Gujarat state assembly, the Congress has been conducting aggressive campaigning to mark a return in the state where it last formed government 22 years back.