NEW DELHI, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- A row triggered in India on Friday with opposition parties and others targeting government for its move of replacing image of Mahatma Gandhi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's photo on 2017 calendars of traditional handloom and cotton industry.
Calendars and dairies printed by the government-run Khadi Village Industries Commission (KVIC) features Modi sitting cross-legged at a a spinning wheel.
Previously the commission was using the iconic image of bespectacled Gandhi, wearing a loincloth and sitting cross-legged at a spinning wheel in a bid to promote the homespun cotton, locally called Khadi, as an industry.
Gandhi is considered as father of Indian nation and has been on the forefront of India's independence struggle. He took up spinning of cotton as a defiance against the Britishers and propagated it passionately as a symbol of self-reliance.
The protest began after employees at the KVIC in Mumbai raised eyebrows over the management's decision saying they were "pained" by the change.
"We are not against inclusion of Modi's picture on the dairies and calendars, but are pained not to find Gandhiji's picture on it," an employee told media. "Isn't Gandhi anymore relevant for Khadi industry?"
The commission Friday clarified there was no policy for mandatory use of photograph of Gandhi on the diary and calendar of KVIC, however it stated Gandhi can never be replaced.
"PM emulating the father of the nation is an unmistakable image of dedication to the core national values. Does it not showcase commitment to Khadi (cotton) at the highest level of governance? How can anyone replace the father of the nation? Needless to mention that Mahatma Gandhiji is the soul and essence of the Khadi movement and shall remain so forever in the heart of the artisans and KVI sector," V K Saxena, Chairman of KVIC in a statement issued on Friday said.
Saxena said figures other than Gandhi had been used as the faces of the calendar before, and that Modi deserved the honour because he was kind enough to grace the "Khadi event" held at Ludhiana where he distributed 500 Charkhas (spinning wheel) to the needy Khadi artisans of Punjab.
Opposition leaders were quick to ridicule the new image and mount their criticism on Modi and his Bhartiya Janta Party.
"Becoming Gandhi requires years of self-sacrifice," Arvind Kejriwal, New Delhi Chief Minister and arch-rival of Modi wrote on twitter in Hindi. "You cannot become Gandhi by acting as if you can spin the charkha (spinning wheel) - this will only make you a laughing stock."
Modi rose to power in 2014 elections. Though he often plays up his humble roots as the son of a railway station tea seller to woo the electorate, however he has been accused of indulging in self-aggrandizement to boost his image.
Another Chief Minister from India's eastern state of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee too took a potshot on Modi over the issue.
"In the calendar and diary of Khadi (KVIC) 2017 Modi replaced Mahatma Gandhi ji. Gandhiji is the Father of the Nation. Modi ji what???," wrote Banerjee on twitter.