Would-be Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday asked senior party leader Mani Shankar Aiyar to apologise for calling Narendra Modi a "neech aadmi", saying he does not appreciate the "tone and the language" used to address the Prime Minister.
"The BJP and PM routinely use filthy language to attack the Congress party. The Congress has a different culture and heritage. I do not appreciate the tone and language used by Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer to address the PM. Both the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said," he tweeted.
BJP and PM routinely use filthy language to attack the Congress party. The Congress has a different culture and heritage. I do not appreciate the tone and language used by Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer to address the PM. Both the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said.— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) December 7, 2017
Shankar was quick to apologise for the statement but maintained that he meant "low level" when he used the word "neech".
"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 if it has some other meaning then I apologise," he said.
Over Gandhi's rebuke to Aiyar, the latter said he can reply to the PM "in his language" because he is a "freelance Congressi" and holds no post in the party.
"Why was the PM taking a jibe at the Congress and Rahul Gandhi at inauguration of a Centre on Baba Saheb Ambedkar? Everyday the PM is using foul language against our leaders. I am a freelance Congressi, I hold no post in the party, so I can reply to PM in his language, "he said.
Gandhi had, early last month, asserted that he and his party would not disrespect the PM, despite their disagreements with him and his policies.
"When Modi-ji was in the opposition, he used to speak with disrespect about the PM. That is the difference between us and them, no matter what Modi says about us, we'll not go beyond certain point as he is the Prime Minister," Gandhi had said.
Speaking to ANI, Aiyar had Thursday called the PM a neech aadmi (deplorable man) in response to the PM's speech at the inauguration Ambedkar International Centre where he took a dig at Rahul Gandhi's comment on being a Shiva devotee and said some parties talked more of Baba Bhole (Lord Shiva) than Babasaheb.
Referring to Modi's statements painting the Congress as anti-Ambedkar, Aiyar told ANI, "Ye aadmi bahut neech kisam ka aadmi hai, iss mein koi sabhyata nahi hai, aur aise mauke par is kisam ki gandi rajniti karne ki kya avashyakta hai?” (He is a very deplorable sort of a man, he has no manners. What was the necessity of playing dirty politics over this ocassion?).
The BJP and the prime minister soon responded to Aiyar's statement, calling it a "Mughalayi" mindset.
“They 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.” Modi said.