Protest after Modi 'replaces' Mahatma Gandhi in calendar

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays his respects at a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in front of the Indian embassy in Washington on September 30, 2014. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Protesting workers say that nobody, including Mr Modi, can replace Gandhi's legacy

Workers from an Indian government department have protested against a decision to replace Mahatma Gandhi in their official calendar with pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Staff at the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) said that they were "pained" by the decision.

It supports village-level industries, which Gandhi passionately promoted.

The KVIC said it used Mr Modi's photos because he had also been a big supporter of village industries.

Khadi, which is hand-spun cotton, was used by Gandhi as a symbol of self-reliance and protest against British rule.

The commission traditionally uses Gandhi's pictures in its official calendars and stationery. The decision to not include Gandhi this year has caused anger, despite a statement saying that he could "never be replaced".

Some workers on Thursday refused to accept the new stationery and held a silent protest in the KVIC headquarters in Mumbai.

"We are not against inclusion of Modi's picture on the dairies and calendars, but are pained not to find Gandhi's picture," the PTI news agency quoted a worker as saying.

"We simply want to know why Gandhi has not been given the space here? Is Gandhi no more relevant for khadi industry?"

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Gandhi's philosophy was centred around promoting village industries
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Modi says he is also a supporter of village and handloom industries

But the KVIC has defended the new calendar, which shows Mr Modi emulating Gandhi in a classic pose, spinning cotton at an old-fashioned wheel.

"The entire khadi industry is based on Gandhi's philosophy, ideas and ideals, he is the soul of KVIC, so there is no question of ignoring him," the IANS news agency quoted KVIC Chairman Vinai Kumar Saxena as saying.

Mr Saxena said the commission chose to use Mr Modi's pictures because he was "the biggest brand ambassador of khadi (hand woven) clothes".

"His [Mr Modi's] vision matches KVIC's, of 'Make In India' by making villages self-sufficient," he said.

He also said that this was not the first time KVIC had left out Gandhi's pictures on official stationery.

Meanwhile, Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Kalraj Mishra said that he would "look into the matter".

"There is no question of Mr Modi or anybody replacing Gandhi. But it can't be denied that the PM has actively promoted khadi clothes since taking office," he said.

Mr Modi's political opponents have criticised him. The chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, tweeted that "it takes more than one lifetime to become Gandhi".

"Just posing with the spinning wheel doesn't make anybody Gandhi, one just become a subject of jokes," he added.

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