Oh Mani Shankar Aiyar, why did you have to speak

The 'Tamilian-not-so-well-versed-in-Hindi' seems to aspiring for a Congress-mukt Bharat, even more than Amit Shah.

 |  4-minute read |   08-12-2017
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After the 2014 General Elections, when the Modi juggernaut "crushed" the Congress, the received wisdom from psephologists and commentators was that it was a bridge too far for the grand old party to cross.

However, the Congress got a head start this time with Rahul Gandhi finally in the thick of action and for once showing some gumption to face the heat and bend his back to personally lead the charge.

The BJP was brazening it out as usual with "media spins", and results on the ground on December 18, in all likelihood, would be a repeat of the past five elections in Gujarat and may well be a Uttar Pradesh phenomenon made good.

However, it's clear that the BJP, if not "rattled" is not gung ho and therefore relying more and more on Narendra Damodardas Modi's frequent forays to tap into the Gujarat "asmita" (pride). Of course, there is very little to talk about the Gujarat model of development.

mani-reuters_120817011449.jpgImage: Reuters photo

With the Supreme Court fixing the timeline for the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit appeal hearings for February 2018 rejecting Kapil Sibal’s plea for postponement of the hearings, purportedly against his client’s instructions, Lord Rama has already started to cast a glance at the BJP’s travails.

And then came this "neech" gift to the BJP from Mani Shankar Aiyar. He, of the Chaiwala quote fame, could not have hurt the Congress’s chances more with his words.

Aiyar’s "low-level" (I am also a Tamilian and my knowledge of Hindi is not good) jab was quickly picked up by the BJP's army of social media activists and legion of karyakartas to turn it into another winning "chai pe charcha" with the voters. The results of May 2014 are there for all to see. While the Congress was decimated, it was Aiyar’s "chaiwala" remark which had a lot to contribute.

And, give it to him. He has done it again, almost acting like a mole planted by the BJP within the Congress ranks. First, he gave the BJP a chance to "compare" Rahul Gandhi's anointment as Congress president to Aurangzeb, the much-despised Mughal. But he was not finished yet.

Aiyar seems to aspiring for a Congress-mukt Bharat, even more than Amit Shah.

On December 7, even as the BJP was gasping for breath, on the last mile, Aiyar bowled a beamer, a cheap diatribe. His use of the dreaded "N" word in Hindi lexicon, is simply unbelievable.

In India, where the citizens "vote for their castes", Aiyar may have delivered a mortal blow to the Congress’s chances with just one "neech" jibe. As Yuval Noah Harari, Israeli historian and professor in the department of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says in his bestseller Homo DeusA Brief History of Tomorrow, "Universally, voters in a democracy vote with their feelings and emotions, and not on reasoned analysis." It is more true for India. 

Aiyar's remark is, in fact, worse than Sonia Gandhi's "maut ka saudagar" which was thrown at Modi, and the Congress paid the price for it. (Interestingly, Italian-origin Sonia Gandhi could have claimed innocence about not knowing Hindi well, but Mani Shankar Aiyar? I doubt it.)

Aiyar has given the BJP what it wanted. The prime minister has gone to town with it (neech remark). The BJP is now "proud" to be “neech”, for it knows it will take the party ahead in the electoral race and has given them the last-minute adrenaline rush.

The BJP is unlikely to let it go, even if Rahul Gandhi has graciously rebuked Aiyar and the latter has apologised. The Congress has even suspended Aiyar from primary membership of the party. But does anyone care for such niceties in the thick of high-decibel elections?  

The "neech" comment from Aiyar was god-sent message for the BJP. Add to that the Somnath temple register entry controversy and the Congress trying to brandish Rahul Gandhi as a "janeu-dhari Hindu", the BJP has been given the perfect chemistry to seek reparation.

Here is my take. The BJP would yet again trump the Congress, but with a lesser margin, as Aiyar’s "atonement" act came at the last mile. Remember the "basket of deplorables" taunt from Hillary Clinton insulting Donald Trump’s supporters, and how she and Democratic Party, despite her sincere apology, paid a huge price in the US elections.

It may be apt to remind Mani Shankar Aiyar - the Tamilian-not-so-well-versed-in-Hindi - of this Tamil quote: "Nunalum than vayal kedum (a frog destroys itself by its inability to keep its mouth shut)."

Also read: Rahul Gandhi sacking Mani Shankar Aiyar for his ‘neech aadmi’ remark is cue for BJP to walk the talk


Vijayaraghavan Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan Narasimhan @narasimhan6

Author is a practising advocate in the Madras High Court.

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