Haryana Minister Anil Vij on Saturday courted controversy with remarks that Mahatma Gandhi's image did not help Khadi and caused devaluation of the currency, sparking widespread outrage with even his party BJP condemning the statements following which he withdrew them.
The senior BJP leader in Haryana, who is not a stranger to controversies, said it was good that Gandhi's image has been replaced with that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the calendar and diary of Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) as Modi is a "better brand" and went on to add that Gandhi's image would be removed gradually from the currency notes too.
The "insulting" remarks by Vij, were slammed by Tushar Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi's great-grandson, who alleged that it was "well orchestrated" campaign from the "high command" and the minister was speaking the language of RSS . The Congress said Gandhi "can be killed, his photographs can be removed but he remains in the soul of India".
Asked about the controversy over Modi's photo, Vij, a five-time MLA from Ambala Cantt, told reporters, "Gandhiji's name has no patent over Khadi. Since Gandhi's name has been attached with Khadi, it has only gone down.
"When Gandhi's image was put on notes, the currency also got devalued," Vij said.
"It is a good move to replace Gandhi's image with Modi.
Modi is a better brand than Gandhi. With the Modi brand name, Khadi sales increased," he said in reply to queries from reporters.
On why the BJP government continued with Gandhi's image on the new currency notes introduced after demonetisation, he said, "It will also go gradually."
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala attacked the Modi government over the remarks saying it is doing what the Britishers did.
"Subjugate people and institutions and use the power of the state to stifle every dissenting voice but Modiji, Anil Vij and BJP must remember that Mahatma Gandhi, you can kill him, you can remove his photograph, you can abuse Mahatma Gandhi, but Gandhi has always lived in the soul of India," he said.
An embarrassed BJP condemned Vij's remarks. "We condemn these remarks. These are his personal comments," BJP spokesperson Shrikant Sharma said
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also quickley distanced himself, saying the remarks have been made by the Minister in his personal capacity and the party does not endorse them and has nothing to do with them.
Vij later withdrew his remarks. "The statement given by me in connection with Mahatma Gandhi was given in my personal capacity. To avoid hurting anyone's sentiments, I am withdrawing it," the Minister tweeted.