After months of silence, Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar was back in the news on Tuesday with an article justifying his "neech" slur against Narendra Modi, and also calling him the most "foul-mouthed" prime minister the country has seen.
The article, published in Rising Kashmir and The Print, drew condemnation from the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which called Aiyar "abuser-in-chief" and described his party as arrogant.
Addressing an election rally, Modi attacked Aiyar and the Congress, saying he takes such abuses as "gifts" and the public will respond to each and every abuses by electing the BJP.
In the article, just days before the last phase of voting for the high-stakes Lok Sabha polls, Aiyar said,"remember how I described him on 7 December 2017? Was I not prophetic?"
In 2017, the former Union minister called Modi "neech aadmi" following which he was suspended from the Congress party.
Justifying the slur, Aiyar in his article said, "Modi will, in any case, be ousted by the people of India on 23 May. That would be a fitting end to the most foul-mouthed prime minister this country has seen or is likely to see. Remember how I described him on 7 December 2017? Was I not prophetic?"
Later, in Shimla, when reporters questioned him about the controversy, Aiyar said it was just one line in his article and he will not get involved in media's "games".
"I am a fool, but not such a big fool," he said.
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The Congress condemned Aiyar's remarks with chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also hinting at action against the veteran Congress leader saying, "appropriate forum in the party will definitely look at it and take apropriate action".
Surjewala also accused Modi of lowering the political discourse by using "downright insulting" and "abusive language" against his opponents and alleged that hatred, violence and abuse is the modus operandi of the BJP and not of the Congress.
"We completely reject and condemn the remarks of the likes of Mani Shankar Aiyar and every other person who is violating the time-tested principle of self discipline in political discourse, of mutual respect and adherence to ideas and ideology, and not to verbally abuse while fighting an election," he said.
The truth is that Modi has "seriously lowered the prestige of the prime minister's office by his choice of words, anger, uncontrollable rage, and by his quest to seek revenge against opposition leaders", he alleged.
Later, Modi used his election rallies to hit out at Aiyar and the Congress.
"Yesterday, he (Aiyar) has again said what he stated earlier. But the Congress had then done the drama by suspending him, and later took him back. But the Congress did not view what he had said as wrong and this is the result of that only," Modi said.
The PM further said, "He (Aiyar) is now saying it again, and also emphasising that there is nothing wrong in his abuse against me. The Naamdaar and his family and their people have ruled over this country for years with this arrogance... I take such abuses as gifts. Modi does not need to answer to these abuses, it is the public which will give answer to each and every abuse hurled at me by choosing the BJP."
The counting of votes for the seven-phase general elections, which will end on May 19, will be on May 23.
BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao put out a tweet saying "Abuser-in-chief Aiyar" had returned to justify his 2017 'Neech' jibe.
"Aiyar then apologized and hid behind poor Hindi excuse. Now he says he was prophetic. Congress revoked his suspension last year for filthy outburst. Double speak and arrogance of @INCIndia on display again!" he said.
Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill earlier said his party is not on the back foot over Aiyar's remarks and it should be Modi instead, who should be ashamed for his remarks on former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.
BJP's IT Cell head Amit Malviya referred to Congress leader Sam Pitroda's "hua to hua" remark on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, and said,"Upset that Sam Pitroda was getting all the attention, the irrepressible Mani Shankar Aiyar pulls Pitroda's foot out of his mouth and puts it in his...Reiterates and justifies his ‘neech' comment for PM!".
In the article, Aiyar said he has found out why Modi "loathes" Jawaharlal Nehru so much -- because Nehru had a degree in 'Natural Sciences' from the University of Cambridge, and was convinced that to pull Indians out of superstition, modern India must cultivate a "scientific temper".
Aiyar said this drives Hindutva supporters "nuts because they like to believe the 'udan khatolas' of mythology were the earliest F-16s to be invented by Hindus, and that Hindu plastic surgery, not a transplant operation, is what led to an elephant's head surmounting Lord Ganesh."
"Both these stunningly illiterate claims come from the mouth of none less than the Prime Minister of our country, whose acquaintance with higher education has gone no further than lying about degrees from Delhi and Gujarat universities that he never got and who can obviously not tell a scientific proposition from a ‘dhokla'," Aiyar wrote.
He also referred to Modi's recent comment that he ordered the Indian Air Force to strike at Balakot despite heavy cloud cover because he believed that heavy cloud cover at the time would allow Indian jets to evade Pakistani radar.
"Did Modi take his senior-most air force officers for fools that he could trot out such ridiculous unscientific rubbish before them? And were they so pusillanimous that they dared not correct such a vacuous Prime Minister?" he wrote in the article, which comes as the long-drawn poll process ends on May 19.