– Tireless mascot’s thankless task

New Delhi, Jan. 12: His admirers say he has worn khadi “since the very early days when he was working for the RSS”.

He has chanted the mantra “Khadi for nation, Khadi for fashion”, plugged for khadi at least thrice in his radio addresses and sent the fabric flying off the shelves.

Alas, selling khadi is a thankless job – Prime Minister Narendra Modi has learnt after a token attempt was made to recognise his tireless efforts.

The official calendar and diary of the six-decade-old Khadi and Village Industries Commission has for the first time eschewed Mahatma Gandhi altogether and plumped for the Prime Minister instead.

“From the cover to the last page, there is no mention of Gandhi – neither in pictures nor in words,” a commission employee said. The commission is dedicated to promoting the essence of the Gandhian way of life.

In place of the iconic “half-naked fakir” at his rudimentary charkha, the cover of the diary and the calendar have Modi. He is fitted out in khadi, complete with a colour-coordinated half-coat, trying his hand at a more modern-looking spinning wheel.

It prompted an impromptu, “Gandhian” protest by anguished employees at the commission’s headquarters, Gramodaya, in Mumbai’s Vile Parle today.

“We are employees and cannot protest, so we covered our mouths with black bands and observed a half hour’s silent soul-cleansing in the prayer hall on the premises,” the employee said.

“Gandhi and khadi are inseparable. This decision by the commission to bring out a calendar and a diary without a single picture of Bapu has hurt us.”

He clarified: “We are not against the Prime Minister, but we just felt strongly about the manner in which they have erased Gandhi from these calendars and diaries, which are distributed not just among the employees but also among people from outside the organisation. We registered our view in a Gandhian way.”

The call for this limited action had come from the Khadi Gramodyog Karamchari Sena, a workers’ union headed by Shiv Sena MP Anandrao Adsul.

“We have nothing against Mr Modi but he cannot replace Mahatma Gandhi; now or ever,” Adsul told T he Telegraph.

The new calendar and diary are yet to reach the Delhi offices of the commission but the employees at its Mumbai headquarters got hold of a copy each yesterday.

Modi, who is fond of having his pictures taken and ensures attention to every detail, first found a place on the commission’s calendar and diary last year but Gandhi was still there.

Still, the employees had registered their distress at the inclusion of Modi’s pictures, and had been told by commission chairman Vinai Kumar Saxena that “this would not be repeated”.

According to the employees, Saxena had argued that since the calendars and diaries had already been printed, withdrawing them would mean a waste of money.

Asked by this newspaper about the assurance given last year to the employees, Saxena countered: “Have we done anything wrong by putting the Prime Minister’s photographs? Have we violated any law?”

Saxena argued that the employees’ fears were misplaced and that there was no question of erasing the Mahatma from the commission’s history or horizons.

“Nobody can. Mahatma Gandhi is the driving force of the KVIC. It is just that khadi is now taking a different leap. It has a modern look and Mr Modi is the best brand ambassador for khadi,” he said.

“Which other Prime Minister has advocated khadi like Mr Modi? He has spoken about it thrice in his radio broadcasts, and his advocacy of khadi has boosted sales by over 30 per cent.”

The commission has not been alone in making Modi its poster boy. Every page of this year’s official calendar brought out by the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity – which handles government ads – has a photograph of the Prime Minister occupying nearly half the page. Last year’s edition had Modi as a small inset on every page.https://www.telegraphindia.com/1170113/jsp/frontpage/story_130106.jsp#.WHiOhht942x