The Congress on Thursday suspended senior leader Mani Shankar Aiyar from the primary membership of the party, All India Radio reported. Aiyar had earlier on Thursday called Prime Minister Narendra Modi “neech”, a comment that was criticised by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Gandhi said Aiyar’s comments do not fall in line with the culture and heritage of the party. “BJP and PM routinely use filthy language to attack the Congress party,” Gandhi said on Twitter. “I do not appreciate the tone and language used by Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer to address the PM. Both the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said.”

Modi hit out at the Congress over Aiyar’s statements. Modi said the sort of language that the Congress leaders were using was “unacceptable” in democracy and was a result of “dynastic mentality”.

In response, Aiyar claimed he made the remark because Hindi was not his mother tongue. “I meant low level when I said ‘neech’, I think in English when I speak in Hindi as Hindi is not my mother tongue,” Aiyer said. “So if it has some other meaning then I apologise.”