Haryana minister Anil Vij said on Saturday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a better brand name than Mahatma Gandhi amid a raging controversy over Modi’s photograph replacing that of the father of the nation in the 2017 calendar published by the Khadi Village Industries Commission (KVIC).
At an interaction with journalists at his residence in Ambala, Vij who is the health and sports minister in BJP-ruled Haryana, also and that Gandhi’s picture would soon be removed from bank notes.
“Jab se Khadi ke saath Gandhi ka naam juda hai, khadi uth hi nahi saki. Khadi doob gayi (From the time Gandhi’s name has been associated with Khadi, the industry has never been able to stand up. Khadi has sunk),” Vij said.
“It’s good that Modi’s photo replaced that of Gandhi’s in the calendar. Modi is a better brand name,” the BJP leader said.
If that wasn’t enough, Vij even went on to say that the rupee has devalued from the time Gandhi’s photo started appearing on currency notes.
“Gandhi ka aisa naam hai ki jis din se note pe chhapi hai tasveer us din se note ki devaluation ho gayi (Gandhi’s name is such that from the day his photo started appearing on currency notes, the note has devalued),” Vij said.
For good measure, he added that Gandhi’s picture would disappear from bank notes too. “Hat jayenge dheere dheere.” (“Gandhi’s picture will disappear from currency eventually.”)
Vij’s controversial statements drew angry response from the opposition. The BJP also quickly distanced itself from his remarks saying the party does not endorse it.
“It is his personal opinion and has nothing to do with the party,” Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said.
“Vij is a senior leader in our party but it could be his individual view and I cannot comment on it as it could be his understanding on the issue in some context or to some reference’’, Khattar added.
On Vij’s remark on Mahatama Gandhi’s picture on bank notes, Khattar held that it could be Vij’s personal view and had no link with the party. “Devaluation of currency could have been because of wrong policy of Congress and it had nothing to do with the image of Gandhiji,” Khattar added..
The chief minister said Gandhiji was universally respected for his efforts to promote khadi and Modi’s photo with charkha was also with the aim to promote khadi and not with any aim to lower the father of the nation’s respect.
Shrikant Sharma, BJP spokesperson, was less indulgent.“BJP strongly condemns statement of Anil Vij, it’s his personal remark and not the party’s stand. Mahatma Gandhi is our icon,” he said.
The Congress too went after Vij. “One can only expect such kind of objectionable and nonsensical statements from BJP’s leaders and ministers,” Randeep Singh Surjewala, Congress spokesperson said.
Under fire from the opposition and with no defence from his own party, Vij sought to control the damage. “The comment I made on Mahatma Gandhi is my personal opinion. To avoid hurting anyone’s sentiments I take it back,” he said in a statement.
Vij, BJP’s enfant terrible is no stranger to controversies and has a record of making nasty remarks. Among those who have been at the receiving end of his ire include Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, actor Parineeti Chopra and boxer Vijender Singh.
A five-time MLA from Ambala cantonment, Vij, who enjoys a reputation for honesty, also does not mind taking pot shots at the chief minister, his other government and party colleagues, speaking or tweeting out of turn in utter disregard of protocol or the concept of collective responsibility.
He often quickly retracts his statements and has acquired the image of a flip-flop minister.