Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar has resurfaced, with one more round of voting to go in the national election, with an article justifying the "Neech" slur he had used for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for which he was suspended by his party two years ago. Hours later, PM Modi, at a rally, said: "These mahamilavati' people SP, BSP and the Congress, all are abusing me. Not a single day has passed when they have not abused me. This is their condition after the sixth phase of the election. I consider their abuses as a gift. I will not reply to them, you (public) will reply by voting for the BJP."
The Congress disowned the views of the veteran often blamed for causing the party much damage with his ill-timed comments.
The opinion piece, published in the Rising Kashmir and reproduced by The Print, has the Congress leader referring to Jawaharlal Nehru's education and attacking PM Modi for "stunningly illiterate claims", most recently his comment that "clouds would help Indian jets escape Pakistani radars" during the Balakot air strike.
"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 writes.
Saying that PM Modi "needs to be warned that he is guilty of anti-national activity in trying to ride on the sacrifices of our army and CRPF martyrs in a dirty election campaign", Mr Aiyar writes: "But then, why bother? 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?"
Asked to clarify his comments, Mr Aiyar told reporters: "There is a whole article, picking out one line from it and saying -- now talk on this. I'm not ready to be involved in your games, "I am a fool, but not big a fool." He added, "thank god. This government will go in 10 days."
Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill, asked whether Mr Aiyar had embarrassed the party yet again, said: "Yes, it is embarrassing that today we have a PM who has degraded the post of PM, it is embarrassing when he called Rahul Gandhi hybrid half calf, it is embarrassing he called someone 50 crore ki girlfriend, called Rajiv Gandhi bhrashtachari number 1."
A former union minister, Mr Aiyar was suspended when, in the middle of the 2017 Gujarat election campaign, he called the Prime Minister "Neech aadmi (vile person)". The comment backfired on the Congress, and was held up by PM Modi during his speeches as an example of name-calling and personal attacks by the Congress.
Mr Aiyar's latest comes at a time the Congress is trying to control the damage caused by the comments of its senior leader Sam Pitroda on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots: "Hua toh hua (whatever happened, happened)".
"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...," tweeted Amit Malviya, the head of the BJP's IT cell, on Tuesday.
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...— Chowkidar Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) May 14, 2019
Reiterates and justifies his 'Neech' comment for PM! pic.twitter.com/0oUcjegjp3
The 78-year-old leader has been credited in the past with handing the BJP an evocative campaign theme in the 2014 national election when he remarked that the Congress would welcome Mr Modi to serve tea after the BJP lost. The BJP responded by launching a "chai pe charcha" campaign and PM Modi referred to himself as the "chaiwala" at rallies.