Indians disgruntled after Modi replaces Gandhi in state-issued calendar

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New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday came under intense criticism from the opposition over his picture "replacing" Mahatma Gandhi on the 2017 calendar and diary of the Khadi Village Industries Commission (KVIC). They gathered and prayed before Gandhi's statue, and later staged a symbolic protest wearing black bands on their mouths.

So to say, Mahatma Gandhi's charkha picture is not only iconic, but it is symbolic of his philosophy of Swaraj or self reliance, and his idea of simplicity. Shiv Sena accused the Modi government of entering into a sacrosanct territory by excluding Gandhi from the khadi campaign. "Gandhiji has his own place, nobody can take it", said Union Minister Kalraj Mishra.

The Congress latched on to the issue, with its vice-president Rahul Gandhi tweeting: "The Mangalyaan effect".

The commission's calendars have always featured Mahatma Gandhi, who founded the Khadi movement in the 1920s, aiming to boycott foreign goods in a non-violent protest against the British.

"It is an irony that Modi is trying to get the symbol of non-violence from Mahatma Gandhi", he added. In 1996, 2002, 2005, 2011, 2013, 2013 and 2016, Gandhiji was not there on the calendar and diary. The photographs used in those years were, however, generic pictures of looms and fabric. "Modiji what???" West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said.

Mahatma Gandhi's great-grandson Tushar Gandhi said, "Bapu's charkha was the source of income for the poor people".

Employees and officials of KVIC have opposed the move to exclude the image of Mahatma Gandhi from the cover of calendar and diary that show Modi weaving khadi on a large charkha, in the same classic pose as Gandhiji's.

Opposition parties, including the Congress, the Left, Trinamool Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, slammed the change, asserting the "Father of the Nation" is "irreplaceable". The BJP played down the row. A senior official of the commission said the decision to print Modi's picture was taken to "commemorate the historical moment" when the prime minister distributed 500 charkhas among women in Ludhiana in October previous year.

PM was also making an enormous contribution to promote khadi, whose sales had shot up.