PMO says row over calendar uncalled for

PMO says row over calendar uncalled for
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was today embroiled in a row after his photo appeared in the calendar and the diary of Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), with opposition parties slamming the development even as the government and BJP dismissed the controversy as "unnecessary".

The Prime Minister 's Office (PMO) said the controversy was "unnecessary" as "there is no rule in KVIC that it's diary and calendar should have only Gandhiji's photo."

KVIC chairman V K Saxena defended the move, saying there is "no rule or tradition" that only Mahatma Gandhi's picture can be published on these items.

"The Mangalayaan effect," Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi tweeted, implying that Modi was trying to take credit for promotion of KVIC like he had allegedly done after India's spacecraft Mangalayaan landed on the Mars.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, "Khadi & Gandhiji are symbols of our history, self-reliance & struggle. Removing Gandhiji's photo is a sacrilegious sin."

At the AICC briefing, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said "Gandhiji is too great to be replaced by any one". Sharply critical of Modi, he said while the RSS ideology killed Gandhiji, "a former RSS pracharak" has replaced him on diary and calendar of the KVIC on which the Mahatma has left a "unique stamp".

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, "The great symbol of 'charka' (wheel) and Mahatma Gandhi now gets replaced by Modi babu. In the calendar and diary of Khadi (KVIC) 2017, Modi replaced Mahatma Gandhiji. Gandhiji is the Father of the Nation. Modiji what???"

JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi said it was a matter of "big shame" that Mahatma Gandhi's picture was removed in a year when the country was celebrating centenary anniversary of his first Satyagraha movement in Champaran in Bihar.

He demanded Saxena's sacking for the "tuglakhi' decision. Reacting to the controversy, PMO sources said in the past also, there was no picture of Mahatma Gandhi on such KVIC material.

"In the calendars and diaries of 1996, 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016, there was no picture of Gandhi. So there is no question of Modi replacing Gandhiji's picture," the sources said.

"Those stoking the controversy over the issue should realize that during Congress rule of 50 years, the sale of khadi remained restricted to 2 per cent to 7 per cent but in last two years, the sale has seen an unprecedented jump of 34 per cent. This is because of PM's efforts to popularise khadi," they added.

The PMO said "Modi is an icon of the youth and the growing popularity of khadi in the world is testimony to this."

The PMO said the KVIC diary and calendar has photographs of Modi distributing charkha among poor women, they said. Taking a jibe at the Prime Minister, Singhvi said "Modiji first likened himself to Sardar Patel, now he considers himself to be Gandhiji. Because he (Modi) has criticized this one person, Modiji has not likened himself to him. That is Nehru ji".

The Congress spokesman also hit out at Modi for removing HRD Ministry from the ambit of an Information Commissioner for passing an order under RTI for making public records of Delhi University from a particular year in which Modi had obtained a degree.

"An obsession bordering on narcissism has unfortunately become the hallmark of the Prime Minister. Our Prime Minister can't accept any form of criticism. Constructive or otherwise", he said.

He was of the view that what is happening in the country today is symptomatic of several islls. "These ills are the politics of vendetta, of fear psychosis, punishment to those who disagree with you and self obsession. And if this is not curbed, then this can be fatal to our democracy," Singhvi added.

Tyagi said, "Whatever has happened is condemnable. We will ask the Prime Minister to remove Saxena for this shameful decision and ensure that all calendars and diaries are withdrawn."

BJP spokesaman Sambit Patra said an "unnecessary controversy" has been created over a "non-issue" Addressing a press conference, he rejected as "false" the charge that Modi's picture replaced that of Mahatma Gandhi in KVIC calendar, insisting that the Father of the Nation's photo had not been used many a time in the past. He said Gandhi's photographs were not used in the KVIC calendars and diaries in 1996, 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

There is no rule in KVIC that says only Gandhi's photograph should be used, he said. Targeting Congress and Gandhi ruling family, he said their love for the Father of the Nation's picture was confined to the currency notes carrying his photo and that they "misused" his name for political purpose for all these years.

"The Prime Minister promoted Gandhi's philosophies and these are reaching every household... There is one party which ruled for years in Gandhi's name. They keep calling themselves Gandhis though they had no link with Mahatma Gandhi," he said.

The sale of khadi through KVIC, a government body tasked with its promotion, was merely 2 to 7 per cent all these years but Modi's efforts took it over 35 per cent, he said.

Modi has been promoting the values Gandhi stood for whether it is 'swachhta' or khadi, Patra said.

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