'Neech', 'chaiwala' and 'nalayak': 'Freelance Congressman' Mani Shankar Aiyar has caused repeated headaches for India's grand old party

Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar found himself in the eye of a storm after calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi 'neech'.

Earlier, the prime minister accused the Congress of suppressing Babasaheb Ambedkar's ideas and contribution in nation-building.

However, the diplomat-turned politician's remark, which came just hours before campaigning for the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly polls closed, is only the latest in a series of attacks he made on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.

File image of senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyyar. PTI

File image of senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

The 2014 'Chaiwala' barb

When Modi was elected as prime minister in 2014, Aiyar  mocked Modi's ambitions and had said that a place will be identified for the Gujarat chief minister to distribute tea. He was quoted by PTI as saying, "I promise you in 21st Century Narendra Modi will never become the prime minister of the country... But if he wants to distribute tea here, we will find a place for him."

Many believe that Aiyar's 'chaiwala' barb at Modi during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls helped the then BJP prime ministerial candidate a great deal as he often referred to it in his campaign to highlight his humble background and attack the Congress.

'Nalayak' Atal Bihari Vajpayee

In 1998, Aiyar, an articulate English speaker and writer—who described himself as a 'freelance Congressman' on Thursday—called the then prime minister and BJP stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee 'nalayak' (a pejorative Hindi word loosely translated as incompetent), according to PTI.

The backlash followed by his comment forced him to apologise as he did on Thursday, after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi called his language "unacceptable."  Aiyar employed the same defence in 1998: That he did not understand usage of the Hindi word.

India-Pakistan relations

Aiyar once called Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed as "Hafiz Sahab". He suggested in an interview on a Pakistani TV channel that peace between India and Pakistan could happen only when the Modi government falls and asked the neighbouring country to help topple the BJP dispensation, reported PTI.

'BA Pass' Ajay Maken

Even his own colleague Ajay Maken, then a minister in the UPA government, took fire from Aiyar in 2011.

Aiyar slammed Maken, the then sports minister, for accusing him of playing a part in the cost escalation of Commonwealth Games projects and also questioned the authenticity of the letter Maken wrote to the prime minister in which he made these allegations.

Aiyar, a former sports minister himself, said Maken was not qualified enough to write such a letter to the prime minister. "... it contains words like 'dichotomous' which I cannot believe that a BA Pass from Hansraj College would know," he said.

Aurangzeb remarks

Aiyar referred to Mughal kings being succeeded by their sons to justify Rahul Gandhi’s imminent elevation as Congress president. When Rahul filed his nomination for the post of Congress president, several BJP leaders dubbed the party presidential election as 'rigged' and even termed his elevation a 'coronation'.

The BJP also accused the Congress of upholding the dynasty politics. Hitting back at BJP leaders, Aiyar said, “When Shah Jahan came in the place of Jahangir did any election happen? And when Aurangzeb came in place of Shah Jahan did any election happen? It was known to everyone that the throne of the king will automatically go to the heir," reported CNN-News 18.

The report further added that Aiyar's comment led to a war of words between both the parties with Modi latching on to Aiyar's remarks.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Dec 08, 2017 00:47:51 IST

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