Aiyar's derogatory remarks against PM puts Congress on the defensive

On the last day of campaigning for the first phase of Gujarat assembly elections, the Congress on Thursday spent its firepower to question the ‘Gujarat model of development’, but a senior leader’s derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi forced it onto the defensive.

In Rajkot, former prime minister Manmohan Singh told a press conference in the morning, and later a group of industrialists, how Gujarat had regressed during the BJP’s 22 years in power. Quoting former US president Abraham Lincoln, Singh said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Eighty-nine assembly seats, of the total 182, will go to the polls on Saturday in the first phase. Polling for the second phase will take place on December 14.  

Singh said the people of Gujarat had now seen through the reality of the ‘Gujarat model of development’, and they should vote the Congress for a brighter future for their children.

In Ahmedabad, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala held a press conference to highlight the “scam” in the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation Limited. Congress leader Ahmed Patel tweeted to clarify that he had “never ever” been a chief ministerial candidate and accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of orchestrating a rumour campaign to change the narrative.

Much of this was eclipsed when Modi, addressing a rally in Surat, latched on to a comment by Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar. The PM said Aiyar, who comes from an educated family and has been a former diplomat, had called him “neech”, or low born, which reflected the Congress’ “Mughalai” world view. Modi said this wasn’t the first time that the Congress has ridiculed him for his humble origin.

A couple of days ago, the PM had brought up another comment by Aiyar to liken Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s imminent elevation to the consecration of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

Rahul Gandhi, who was missing in action on the campaign trail on Thursday, and other Congress leaders disapproved of Aiyar’s remarks, and asked him to apologise. Aiyar apologised, but said he didn’t refer to the PM as “low born”.

BJP chief Amit Shah led other party leaders, including Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, to slam the Congress.

The BJP didn’t release a manifesto for the polls. In Rajkot, Singh elaborated on the Congress manifesto, and how a Congress government would focus on the MSME sector to revive Gujarat’s economy. He said the Centre should have instituted a probe into the allegations against BJP chief’s son Jay Shah. 

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