Prime Minister Narendra Modi has replaced Mahatma Gandhi on the 2017 calendars of government’s khadi enterprise in a move described by many in the opposition as “sacrilege”.
Top government sources in India have alleged a “baseless and unnecessary controversy” over the face of PM Modi on calendars and diaries of the state-run Khadi Village Industries Commission (KVIC).
“There is no rule that only Gandhi’s picture has to be on the calendar,” said a top government source.
PM Modi’s BJP said Gandhi’s picture was not on Khadi commission’s material in 1996, 2002, 2005, 2011, 2013, 2013 and 2016. “So why a controversy now?” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra wondered.
The image of Gandhi in a loincloth, sitting cross-legged at a charkha or spinning wheel, is one of India’s most iconic and has long been used to promote khadi.
Defending PM Modi’s image on Khadi calendars, government sources said: “Modi ji is a youth icon and the increasing popularity of Khadi products among youths is an example of this.”
Opposition parties sneered at what they called blatant self-aggrandizement.
“Becoming Gandhi requires years of self-sacrifice,” Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, tweeted in Hindi.
“You cannot become Gandhi by acting as if you can spin the charkha (spinning wheel) – this will only make you a laughing stock.” Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of Bengal, commented: “Gandhiji is the Father of the Nation. Modi ji what???”
Rahul Gandhi captioned it the “Mangalyaan Effect”. At a Congress event two days ago, he had said, “Modi would take credit for sending the Mangalyaan if he had his way”.
Over the years, the commission’s calendars and diaries have traditionally featured Mahatma Gandhi, who started the Khadi movement in the 1920s to promote Indian hand-spun cloth compared to the costly version sold by British rulers.
Some employees of the Khadi commission held a silent protest yesterday, with black bands covering their mouths, to record their protest.
Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi was among those who was deeply critical of the calendars and diaries. “Bapu’s charkha was the source of income for the poor people. Now has become a photo prop,” he said on Friday.