Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar has opened a new can of worms by reiterating his comment made in 2017 that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a “neech aadmi” but in the heat of the poll season in 2019, it could just undo the Congress chances ahead of the last phase of polling on May 19, where 51 constituencies go to the polls including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s seat Varanasi. Mani Shankar Aiyar, who is infamous for dismissing PM Modi as a chaiwala during an AICC session in 2013, infuriated enough swing voters to vote for the BJP after that classist remark which ended up projecting the prime minister as an outsider and a lower caste aspirant to become PM.
In a column for the Rising Kashmir, a newspaper in Jammu and Kashmir, the Congress leader was expanding on PM Modi’s recent comments that misfired on social media. PM Modi had said in the same interview to a TV channel that the Balakot operation was carried out under cloud cover to escape Pakistani radar and that he had a digital camera and an email account in the late 1980s while the device and email came to India much later in the mid-1990s. In such an expansive mood, Aiyar seems to have put his foot in the mouth shortly thereafter by saying wasn’t he prophetic about calling the PM a neech aadmi in 2017.
The neech aadmi comment itself was interpreted differently by various constituencies, with one group seeing it as a casteist remark while another took offence at the pettiness with which it was said. The Congress has had a stellar list of senior leaders and advisers including telecom guru Sam Pitroda whose comments have been pilloried for being insensitive.
Pitroda, who brought modern telephony home to India, had told a TV reporter that if the 1984 anti-Sikh riots had happened, they occurred. After the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984, Congress workers, including prominent leaders, are accused of leading and orchestrating pogroms against Sikhs in New Delhi, Punjab and other parts of north India.
Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath apart from Delhi Congress leaders Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler are named in 1984 anti-Sikh riot cases. With the 2019 elections, despite being long drawn out, coming to a close, the utterances of Congress leaders can end up powering the BJP ahead in an election where 2014’s Modi wave is absconding.