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Mani Shankar Aiyar's 'neech aadmi' 2.0 will hurt Congress, but extent of damage will only be known on 23 May

In his own wisdom, Mani Shankar Aiyar must have been very pleased while writing his piece in The Print and the attention his contentious Narendra Modi 'neech aadmi' 2.0 remark received.

"Remember how I described him on 7 December, 2017? Was I not prophetic?," he wrote. While doing so, he essentially has tried to defend the Congress' first family where his personal loyalties lay, using venomous words for Modi while comparing and contrasting the prime minister's educational and other credentials with those of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi — and why Modi deserves to be berated and ousted from the office. He perhaps thinks that he has done a great service to the family with which his loyalties lie, as a close friend of the late Rajiv Gandhi.

He, however, doesn't realise that he has yet again handed over the desired ammunition to his sworn adversary to target the persons (Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra) and the party he wishes to defend. In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Aiyar had asserted, "I can promise you that Modi will never, never, never become prime minister of the country in the 21st Century. But yes, if he wants to come here (the AICC convention) and distribute tea we can arrange some space for him." The result of that election is now history.

In the run-up to 2017 Gujarat Assembly election, Aiyar called him "bahut neech kisam ka aadmi". Using Aiyar's disparaging remarks against him, Modi swung the electoral narrative, and portrayed Aiyar's jab as an insult to Gujarat and persons born into lower castes. The extent of damage was such that Rahul was ultimately forced to suspend Aiyar from the party, only to re-induct him at a later date. The result of the Gujarat election is known to everyone.

 Mani Shankar Aiyars neech aadmi 2.0 will hurt Congress, but extent of damage will only be known on 23 May

File image of Mani Shankar Aiyar. Reuters.

Aiyar's neech aadmi 2.0 remark against Modi comes at a time when Sam Pitroda's "Jo hua so hua" remark regarding the 1984 anti-Sikh riots had already been turned into an electoral issue by Modi and Amit Shah for the last two phases of elections. The BJP also dug out Rajiv's statement at a public rally: "Jab bhi koi bada ped girta hai, dharti hilti hai (whenever a big tree fells, the earth shakes)". When it seemed that this issue could adversely impact Congress poll prospects, Rahul said at a public rally in Punjab that Pitroda should be ashamed of what he said, adding he had asked him to apologise. But the BJP leadership has been somewhat successful in conveying that the words "Jo hua so hua" summarise Congress culture.

Both these persons are no ordinary leaders — they are perceived to be Rahul's guides and very close to his late father Rajiv. Their words matter in shaping Rahul's views and consequently the Congress' outlook and policy.

Aiyar almost calls Modi an orthodox obscurantist who was anti-science and believed in the pontification of superstition and mythological tales. He reasons, "I have discovered why Narendra Modi loathes Jawaharlal Nehru so much. Nehru had a degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge. It made him realise that to pull India and Indians out of superstition, from what Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore called 'the dreary desert sands of dead habit'..." He then refers to some remarks purportedly made by Modi about Indian cultural and mythological folklore to call them "stunningly illiterate claims" from a prime minister 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 then goes on to compare Modi's educational qualification with those of Indira and Rajiv. The Gandhis, according to him, displayed statesmanship and were "good, perhaps even great, prime ministers". The dhokla reference is obviously aimed at his Gujarati origins. It could be taken as an insult to the outlook of Gujaratis, but since polling in that state is over, the Congress need not sweat too much.

The Congress leader also forgets that finding value in one's own cultural tradition and belief in technological advancement and modernity are not opposed to each other. Countries like Japan are a shining example of that mix. But for persons like Aiyar, modernity and inculcation of scientific temper is synonymous with westernisation. It's a fact that the sort of digitisation push that was given by Modi had not been seen before in India.

Technological advancement is also evident in India's push in making its mark in the field of 'star wars'. Modi has been the biggest champion of social media, using it to the hilt for himself and the party, but also for the government outreach and in some cases problem solution. The list goes on.

Modi, Shah or any of the other BJP leaders have not spoken of a Brahmastra in this election. Instead, it is the Congress that claims to have a Brahmastra and has even lately unleashed it in Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country. The outcome of the Lok Sabha election and how people in the last phase of polling reacted to it will be known on 23 May.

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Updated Date: May 14, 2019 22:21:41 IST