BJP leader says Modi bigger brand than Mahatma Gandhi, later retracts

Haryana cabinet minister Anil Vij said it is 'good'that Gandhi has been replaced with Modi in the Khadi Village Industries Commission calendar. Photograph:( AFP )

WION Ambala, Haryana, India Jan 14, 2017, 09.52 AM (IST)

Anil Vij, a senior member of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, has withdrawn his controversial comments that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a bigger brand than Mahatma Gandhi.

The BJP leader had invoked outrage after he said on Saturday that India's khadi industry could not progress because of Mahatma Gandhi's association with the brand. He further said that the father of the nation, as Mahatma Gandhi is popularly called for spearheading India's freedom struggle, would be removed from currency notes as well.

"Since the time Gandhi's name got associated with Khadi...it could not progress. The day Mahatma Gandhi came on the rupee, its devaluation started. Gradually, he will be removed from the notes also. It's good that Gandhi has been replaced with Modi...Modi is a bigger brand name. After Modi's association with khadi, there has been 14 per cent increase in sale of the products," Vij had said.
 

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He commented after India's khadi sector regulator recently replaced Gandhi's iconic 'charkha' (spinning wheel) picture with Modi on their annual table diaries and calendars -- a change that triggered a cascade of criticism.

The BJP, including Haryana chief minister ML Khattar, 'strongly condemned' the minister's remarks and distanced themselves from him. 

 

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The Congress, the de facto official party and the party Gandhi was a member of, also excoriated Vij. "One can only expect such kind of objectionable and nonsensical statements from BJP's leaders and ministers," Congress leader RS Surjewala said.

The Congress accused the BJP of resorting to "divisive politics" and said Modi was trying to project himself as "bigger than Mahatma Gandhi".

"BJP believes in hatred and divisive politics. It is unfortunate that now Narendra Modi is trying to portray himself bigger than Mahatma Gandhi," Surjewala further said.

Meanwhile, sources told ANI on Friday there was no question of replacing Mahatma Gandhi's picture with that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

"There was no picture of Mahatma Gandhi on KVIC diary or calendar in the year 1996, 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016, so there is no question of replacing his picture with that of Modi," said unnamed sources.

(WION with inputs from ANI)