Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday night autographed an Indian “flag” to be gifted to US President Barack Obama by celebrity chef Vikas Khanna, evoking sharp criticism after which the government insisted that it was not the national tricolor.
Government spokesman Frank Noronha denied that the Prime Minister had signed the national flag and said it had not been confiscated as reported.
Noronha, director general (Media and Communication), Press Information Bureau, said in New Delhi that the piece of cloth was a work of handicraft prepared by physically- challenged daughter of the chef and the Prime Minister had autographed it on compassionate basis after Khanna and his family made a request.
“The piece of cloth does not have white colour nor the wheel....It has been prepared by Khanna’s daughter with her toe and the Prime Minister was compassionate,” he said.
The Indian Flag Code, 2002, states that putting any kind of inscription upon the Indian national flag is construed as disrespect to the flag. It also states that lettering of any kind shall not be put on the tricolor.
Michelin star chef Vikas Khanna, who collected Modi’s signature after preparing the menu for his dinner with global business leaders at New York’s Waldorf Astoria, too clarified that it was not the national flag.
“It was Make in India insignia with Ashoka Chakra gears hand painted by Smile Foundation children. Not the national flag,” Khanna tweeted.
This contradicted his official representative who said earlier, “The chef presented his cookbook Utsav to the PM, which he covered with the flag as a mark of respect. He never expected that it will stir such a big controversy.”
The issue sparked off a big debate on social media after Khanna said he will hand over the autographed tricolour to Obama.
Asked whether the Prime Minister’s action of signing on a national flag was an offence under IPC, Congress Party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in New Delhi, “we are not petty like BJP. We respect the office of the Prime Minister”.
At the same time, he said that the Prime Minister must look within and take corrective action as respect for the national flag is the responsibility of 125 crore people, more so for the Prime Minister.
“However high you may be, the national flag is above you, you should understand this,” Surjewala said.
Congress leader Manish Tewari tweeted, “Has PM read para 2.1 sub para 6& Para 3.28 of Flag Code 2002 that states lettering on National Flag is misuse.3 yrs jail under PINH Act 2003.”
BJP accused the Congress of “raking up a controversy where none exists” and making “irrelevent and unwarranted” comments on Modi.
Prime Minister told the chef that he had done him proud by preparing an elaborate menu for his guests -- over 50 top American CEOs who met him at the Waldorf Astoria hotel.
(With agency inputs)