The Congress on Thursday suspended former Rajya Sabha MP Mani Shankar Aiyar from primary membership of the party and issued a show-cause notice to him for his comments on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Mr. Aiyar had earlier expressed regret for his comments after public censure from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
The former MP had called Prime Minister Narendra Modi “neech kism ka aadmi” (a low life) in reaction to Mr. Modi’s speech at the inauguration of the Ambedkar International Centre, where he accused the Congress of systematically undermining Ambedkar’s legacy.
“Ye aadmi bahut neech kisam ka aadmi hai. Is mein koi sabhyata nahi hai aur aise mauke par is kisam ki gandi rajniti karne ki kya avashyakta hai,” he told news agency ANI .
Mr. Aiyar does not hold any post in the party.
After the controversial remark, Mr. Gandhi took to Twitter to publicly censure Mr. Aiyar. “BJP and PM routinely use filthy language to attack Congress party. Congress has a different culture and heritage. I do not appreciate the tone and language used by Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar to address the PM. Both the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said,” he tweeted.
Later in the evening, speaking at a rally in Surat, the Prime Minister lashed out at the Congress and Mr. Aiyar, saying the comments are a sign of “Mughlai Mindset.” “This Mughlai Mindset sees everyone but princes as ‘ neech ’. What all have they called us, donkeys, neech, gandi nali ke keede (low-life, sewage-slugs)… the people of Gujarat will give a fitting answer to such deplorable language,” he said.
“They can call me “ neech ”, yes I am from the poor section of society and will spend every moment of my life to work for the poor, Dalits, tribals and OBC communities. They can keep their language, we will do our work,” he added.
He also invoked the “Maut Ka Saudagar” comment made by Congress president Sonia Gandhi during the 2012 Gujarat campaign, saying that it is not the first time the Congress has insulted him.
Expressing regret, Mr. Aiyar said that not being a native Hindi speaker, he unintentionally ended up using the wrong word “ neech ” when actually he meant “low level.”
‘Never meant caste’
“I meant low level when I said ‘ neech ’, I think in English when I speak in Hindi as Hindi is not my mother tongue. So it has some other meaning. Then I apologise,” he said. He added that he never meant to attack the Prime Minister’s caste.
“ Neech word can have different interpretations. My intention was never to talk of PM’s caste. I apologise if it also has a caste meaning,” he added.
Congress communications incharge Randeep Surjewala said the action showed the party’s “Gandhian leadership” and respect for the political rival. He asked whether Mr. Modi would dare to act similarly.
“The Congress party has served a show cause notice to Mani Shankar Aiyar and suspended him from the primary membership of the party,” Mr. Surjewala said.