Gujarat polls: Mani Shankar Aiyar ‘neech’ comment on Narendra Modi puts BJP on firm footing

Surat: Just hours to go before the campaigning for the first phase of polling for the Gujarat Assembly concluded on Thursday has senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar handed BJP a victory? Quick to grab the opportunity offered to him on a platter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a meticulous response demolished all arguments made by the motormouth Congress leader by extensively quoting the latter who described the prime minister as “neech” (of lowly caste).

“Is this not an insult to people of Gujarat and great traditions of India?” he asked.

Obviously, Modi’s formulation had the desired impact. Addressing a large gathering at Nilgiri ground in Surat in the last lap of the campaign for the first round of polls, Modi seemed in complete control of the situation.

He deftly used Aiyar’s fulminations to effectively turn the tide and position himself along with the OBC, Dalits and tribals.

“Let’s not react to Aiyar’s words in any way but respond to it by voting for the BJP,” he said drawing the crowd to an approving response.

In his last meeting for the first phase of polls in the state, Modi has clearly drawn a binary – us versus them. And he very cleverly described Us as those belonging to a large section of society, poor, Dalits, OBCs and those having pride in Gujarati asmita.

At the same time, the Congress is pushed to “them” as being those who represent lumpenised and moneyed class. There’s no doubt that Aiyar’s remarks against the prime minister had strongly helped the BJP to consolidate its position.

Apart from using Aiyar’s “neech comment” Modi also recounted how a Congress general secretary (BK Harikumar) described him as “naali ka keera” (vermin of drainage). Modi had perfectly used the Congress indiscretions to his advantage.

His strategy was quite reminiscent of the manner in which he used Sonia Gandhi’s “maut ka saudagar” (merchant of death) epithet for Modi in 2007 elections. But what appears to be weighing heavily in favour of Modi and the BJP is the way in which he is using demonetisation and GST to his advantage.

“Who has suffered from demonetisation? You?” he asked the gathering which responded in a resounding “no”. Of course he makes a clear distinction between honest and poor people of the state and those who thrive on tax evasion. Obviously, Rahul Gandhi’s opposition to demonetisation and GST brackets him with the latter.

If the chemistry between Modi and crowd is any indication, the BJP appears to be well placed to win this election. However, Mani Shankar Aiyar’s contribution in consolidating Modi’s position can hardly be undermined.