By Sushil Kutty
Just when we thought Mani Shankar Aiyar has been inexplicably missing from action, out he pops up in print and we’ve the original ‘divider’, not the divider-in-chief, but the purveyor and symbol of the divide that splits India. Aiyar is the tip of the aristocratic-iceberg that never slips on the tongue. He articulates the divide. He’s the self-proclaimed guardian of a ruling class under attack from multiple forces which would not have dared to pose a challenge before Mandal and Mandir splintered society and polity.
Aiyar is the rearguard of the army of the aristocratic elite giving way to subaltern classes which are taking over the political space. So are Sam Pitroda and, shall we say, Navjot Singh Sidhu though these two somehow pale in comparison before Mani Shankar Aiyar. Their barbs lack the poison tips that Aiyar’s come armed with. Also, Aiyar manages to convey contempt and disgust with a single word spoken with his caustic tongue or written with his acid pen – ‘Chaiwala’, ‘Neech’…
It has never helped the Congress, though, and definitely not the ‘family’ Aiyar delivers to protect and promote. For the ‘neech aadmi’ comment of 2017, which many believe cost the Congress the Gujarat Assembly, he was suspended from the primary membership of the Congress. Although reinstated, Aiyar remained tongue-tied for the duration of this election season, but right when most everybody started talking of “Modi Gone, Going, Gone…” Mani Shankar Aiyar is back to jolt and upset with his ‘prophetic’ tongue!
The last time Aiyar prophesied against Modi winning the elections and becoming Prime Minister, Modi and the BJP won with brute majority, the first time in 30 years any party achieved the feat, and Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. That was in 2014. Now five years later, Aiyar is trotting out the same dialogue and if it boomerangs this time, too, Chennai’s Mylapore astrologers will have no place to hide in.
What makes the Congress unleash Aiyar on political opponents, especially on somebody like Modi who uses every barb and insult to his political advantage? It’s a fact, a matter of record, that Aiyar’s tongue has cost the Gandhi family politically and personally more than even allegations of corruption against son-in-law Robert Vadra. Graft accusations against Vadra have to be backed with actions on the ground and evidence but calling Modi a ‘neech’ sticks like a leech in the consciousness of India’s potpourri of castes and sub-castes and it’s not only bad politics but also poor perception.
More so, when there’s a resurgence, nay a rising, of aspirations among people who witness the ‘chamak-dhamak’ of life around them. They do not want the ‘Nyay’ promised by the same elite class which kept them deprived of ‘Nyay’ for decades but want to be the distributors of ‘Nyay’, dispensers of justice, themselves – the ruling class. So, right when Rahul Gandhi comes and promises ‘Nyay’, in step Sam Pitroda and Mani Shankar Aiyar with statements and words that make people wonder if the Congress will ever again become a party of the poor and oppressed.
There are other claimants to that mantle. Parties like the Bahujan Samaj Pary and the Rashtriya Janata Dal; the Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal United with people who can get away with spillage of such ‘neech’ sounding words which a Mani Shankar Aiyar cannot because he’s a Doon School and St. Stephen’s College alumni and such ‘neech’ words are not expected from him. A BJP, with Modi heading it, places it at par with any party of the hoi polloi and is starkly different from the Congress.
Aiyar has in his write-up in a website called Prime Minister Narendra Modi the “most foul-mouthed Prime Minister ever” but when Aiyar sinks to speak the language in a similarly foul manner it is he who loses because Modi happens to be from a class Mani Shankar Aiyar was never part of and will never be able to be. Modi speaks the language of the subaltern because Modi has placed himself dead centre among the subaltern. Every time Aiyar calls Modi ‘neech’, the neech get riled and rally behind Modi.
This time around Mani Shankar Aiyar has spoken his prophecy with all but only 59 constituencies already polled. But among the 59 Lok Sabha seats to account for there is also Varanasi from where Modi is contesting as also a clutch of other seats which are under the watch and care of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for the Congress. If Punjab becomes a little difficult for the Congress because of Pitroda, East Uttar Pradesh might feel the Aiyar Effect to the Congress party’s disadvantage. (IPA Service)