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Modi gives caste colour to Priyanka's comment, Congress protests
Tuesday May 6, 2014 8:14 PM, IANS

Priyanka Gandhi's "neech rajniti" (low level politics) barb against Narendra Modi got a caste spin with the BJP prime ministerial candidate asking voters if being born in a low caste was a sin. The Congress accused Modi of deliberately misinterpreting facts and called him "spinmaster".

"You said 'neech rajniti'... They are not able to come to terms with the truth, so they said it is politics of a lower class person. I cannot deny I am from a lower caste, but it is not a crime to be lower caste... I can assure the nation my politics is not low level," Modi said Tuesday at a public meeting in Uttar Pradesh's Domariyaganj, without naming anyone.

"Is it a sin to be born in a lower caste, have I done anything wrong?"A he thundered, as the crowd shouted, "No" in unison.

His comment came after Priyanka attacked him Monday saying the BJP's prime ministerial candidate had insulted her "martyred" father Rajiv Gandhi, and that the Congress booth workers in Amethi would give a befitting reply to his "low-level politics".

The Congress was quick to defend Priyanka Gandhi and said it was Modi's habit to divert issues. "He has not misinterpreted anything, he is doing it on purpose," Congress leader Kapil Sibal said in response to a question.

"...That is how Narendra Modi is. He will say something which has nothing to do with facts," he said.

Amethi, where Priyanka's brother and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is locked in a triangular fight with Bharatiya Janata Party's Smriti Irani and Aam Aadmi Party's Kumar Vishwas, votes Wednesday.

Modi said the Election Commission should take a note of Priyanka Gandhi's comment.

"Stop taunting the lower castes in independent India. Would the Election Commission take action on such an insult?... They have their own compulsions," he said.

The BJP leader also said that he was earlier taunted for being a 'chai walla' (tea seller).

"...what is wrong with being a chai walla? I sold tea, never sold the nation," Modi said, accusing the Congress of insulting the lower caste people.

"Hang me if you want, but don't insult my lower caste brothers," he said.

At the Domariyaganj rally, Modi was accompanied by BJP candidate Jagadambika Pal, who recently crossed over from the Congress.

Modi earlier tweeted: "It is this 'low-level politics' that will help India come out of 60 years of misrule and the politics of vote bank...and wipe the tears of many."

"Socially, I belong to the lower section, hence my politics too will come across as being low level to them," he said in another tweet.

In Kolkata, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad demanded an apology from Priyanka Gandhi saying the comments showed her elitist attitude and bias against the poor.

"It is not only regrettable, but she owes an apology to the nation. This is actually an insult of the poor and those who are backward. This is not low level politics, but usage of such low words is casteist," he said.

Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi accused Modi of dividing politics on the basis of caste.

"Which caste does Narendra Modi belong to. He himself disclosed that he belongs to OBCs and now he has come down to this level. It is he who is dividing politics on the basis of caste," he said.

"Priyanka Ji said that he is doing a low level politics. Will low level politics belong to any caste? It is unfortunate that leaders of BJP belonging to low caste or upper caste are doing low level politics," he said.

Wednesday's vote will be the penultimate round of the Lok Sabha elections that began April 7 and end May 12. The votes will be counted May 16.

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