Ahmedabad, Dec 7 With its leader Mani Shankar Aiyar coming under attack for his "neech aadmi" remark against Narendra Modi, the Congress today said that Rahul Gandhi had asked party leaders not to use uncouth language when referring to the prime minister.
In an apparent move to contain the possible damage barely two days ahead of the keenly contested Assembly elections in the prime minister's home state, the Congress announced disciplinary action against Aiyar, insisting it showed the party's "Gandhian leadership".
In 1998, Aiyar, an articulate English speaker and writer and who described himself today as a "freelance Congressman" had called the then prime minister and BJP stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee "nalayak" (a pejorative Hindi word loosely translated as incompetent).
Modi said Aiyars remark testified to the Congresss "Mughal mentality". "Can Modiji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) ever show such conviction?" he added.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, too, disapproved of Aiyar's remarks and said both he and the party expected the senior leader to apologise. I do not appreciate the tone and language used by Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer to address the PM.
"The Congress has served a showcause notice to Mani Shankar Aiyar and suspended him from the primary membership of the party", Surjewala said.
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Speaking to the media here, Aiyar said, "I meant a low-minded person when I said "neech".
Modi, at a campaign rally in Surat, termed Aiyar's words as insult to Gujarat. In his campaign, he had offered his credentials as a self-made leader, stressing the fact that he sold tea on trains as a young boy to help support his family and contrasting his modest origins with those of the Congress' Gandhi family, which controls all power in the party.
"He (Modi) is "neech kism ka aadmi" (a vile man) who has no "sabhyata" (civility)", Aiyar said, attacking Modi after the latter accused the Congress of seeking votes in B R Ambedkar's name but trying to erase his contribution to nation building. "It is an insult to poor people of India and Gujarat".
"I request all BJP workers and followers who believe in values in public life with folded hands.do not say even a word against those who have used such language against me, against the prime minister of this country, against son of Gujarat, even on Twitter", he said. "The word I used has different meanings and the meaning Prime Minister Modi is making out is not what I meant".
This is not the first time Aiyar has made a derogatory remark about the prime minister.