New Delhi: A day after Rajya Sabha MP Mani Shankar Aiyar stirred a controversy by stating that Narendra Modi will never be Prime Minister, but is welcome to sell tea at the Congress conclave in Delhi, his party has disapproved of the parliamentarian's remarks.
"The party does not approve of the statement," Congress general secretary Ajay Maken told Press Trust of India.
At the mega-gathering of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in Delhi yesterday, Mr Aiyar had said, "There is no way he can be Prime Minister in the 21st century... but if he wants to come and distribute tea here we can make some room for him." He later said that he was simply reiterating what the BJP highlights about Mr Modi "as his main qualification."
The remark had triggered a sharp retort from the BJP's Arun Jaitley who said, "The strength of Indian democracy will be proved when a former tea vendor defeats a Dynasty representative." (Read: Former tea vendor will defeat dynasty, BJP responds to Mani Shankar Aiyar)
While many, including ally Omar Abdullah, said that he had gone too far, Mr Aiyar refuted charges that his comment reflects arrogance or that it mocks the simple origins of Mr Modi, who in campaign speeches has emphasized that his family was not rich and that he sold tea on trains. Mr Modi has contrasted his background with that of the Congress' Rahul Gandhi, whose famous last name has placed him in the centre of power in his party. (Read: Won't apologise for inviting Narendra Modi to sell tea, says Mani Shankar Aiyar)
Even though Mr Aiyar was widely denounced for his remarks, Rahul Gandhi - now in charge of the Congress's campaign for 2014 general election - had singled him out for rich praise.
Mr Gandhi asked in his speech, "Where is Mani Shankar Aiyar?" and then praised the 72-year-old for his effort in strengthening panchayati raj or grassroots democracy, a cause that Mr Gandhi highlighted as close to the heart of his father, Rajiv, who was assassinated in 1991. (Read: Mani Shankar Aiyar gets shout-out from Rahul Gandhi)