The BJP and PM Modi, who was campaigning in Gujarat, had invoked Mr Aiyar’s remarks to target the Congress through the day. “Gujarat will reply,” he said, calling the remark an example of the Congress’ “Mughal values that teach to demean castes and talk about upper and lower castes.”
But as it sought to disassociate itself from Mr Aiyar and his remarks, the Congress also dared the BJP and PM Modi. “This is the Congress leadership’s Gandhian philosophy and a sense of respect towards the opposition,” Congress communications incharge Rajdeep Surjewala tweeted, questioning if PM Modi would have “courage to do something similar”.
Rahul Gandhi had earlier publicly rebuked Mr Aiyar, saying he did not appreciate the tone and language used by Aiyar to address PM Modi. “Both the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said,” Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet.
Mr Aiyar did apologise for what he called his poor command of Hindi. “I meant low level when I said ‘neech’, I don’t think he is low born…if it has some other meaning then I apologise,” he said.
Ahead of the 2014 national election also, Mani Shankar Aiyar had derided Narendra Modi as a tea seller who could never be Prime Minister.
That comment was seen to have contributed significantly to Mr Modi’s sweep of the general election. In his campaign, he had offered his credentials as a self-made leader, stressing the fact that he sold tea on trains as a young boy to help support his family and contrasting his modest origins with those of the Congress’ Gandhi family, which controls all power in the party.