The government has now claimed that it had absolutely no clue that Narendra Modi's image was being used by KVIC
Last week, it was brought to our notice that the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) had replaced the image of Mahatma Gandhi using the charkha in its calendar and diary, with that of the leader of the relatively free world, Narendra Modi, doing the same. The KVIC is a statutory body established by an Act of Parliament and is tasked with promoting the use of khadi in the country. Mahatma Gandhi, as we all know, not only wore khadi (no monogrammed suits for him, even in cold England), he also wove khadi and promoted its use. The raised eyebrows at Mr Modi, quite the dapper suited and booted Prime Minister, not known for his khadi weaving skills, replacing Mahatma Gandhi in the calendar, is understandable.
But for every naysayer who keeps criticising our government, I would like to point that there is much reason to compliment the government and empathise with Mr Modi. As has been proven over the last couple of days, our government is a government of its word, its worthy men—and the rare woman—always work in tandem, and its responses are always consistent. Win-win-win.
First, it was announced in August 2016 that Modi would be replacing Aamir Khan as the brand ambassador of Incredible India. This, of course, had nothing to do with Khan’s statements about an air of intolerance in India. His contract was simply not extended and it was declared that there could be no better ambassador for India, than Modi. In fact, according to a report in The Indian Express, the ministry claimed that a marketing team study regarding the campaign had found that the number of foreign tourists from the countries which PM Modi had visited had gone up. “Even the number from US, where the Prime Minister has visited three times, has gone up by 8 per cent," it said. the decision had been taken, based on these scientific findings.
And if Modi can be the face of Incredible India, why shouldn’t he be the face of Jio, Paytm and now Khadi?
Second, on 14 January, Modi addressed the 47th anniversary of Tamil magazine, Thuglaq. While complimenting the magazine’s founder Cho Ramaswamy, Modi said, “I think we need more satire and humour. Humour brings happiness in our lives. Humour is the best healer. The power of a smile or the power of laughter is more than the power of abuse or any other weapon," he said. “Humour builds bridges instead of breaking them... And this is exactly what we require today. Building bridges, bridges between people, bridges between communities, bridges between societies."
Sure enough, Haryana health minister Anil Vij took Mr Modi’s words to heart and rose to the occasion.
What else could explain his laughable comments on why Gandhi’s image was not being used in the calendar? Speaking to journalists in Ambala, Vij said, “Jab se khadi ke saath Gandhi ka naam judta raha, khadi uth hi nahi saki. Khadi doob gayi (Ever since Gandhi’s name has been associated with khadi, the industry has not been able to stand up. It has drowned). Mahatma Gandhi ka aisa naam hai, note ke upar chipak gaya jis din se, us din se note ki devaluation ho gayi (Gandhi’s name is such that from the day his image started appearing on currency notes, the currency note got devalued). It is a good move to replace Gandhi’s image with Modi. Modi is a better brand than Gandhi." Vij added that khadi sales had risen by 14% after its association with Modi. (I assume this study was undertaken by the same people who studied the Incredible India campaign.) Commenting on the use of Gandhi’s image on the new currency notes, he said, “Gradually, he will be removed from the notes."
Designer and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Shaina N.C., not to be left out of the fray, said, “We don’t subscribe to anybody’s personal opinion. But the party is very clear that whether it is Gandhiji, khadi or the charkha, it is not a ‘soul proprietary’of any political party, organisation or ideology". We must understand that khadi needs to be promoted and that is the intent of KVIC.
And sure enough, as quickly as you can say Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath, Haryana chief minister M.L. Khattar stated that Vij had made the comments in his personal capacity. These were not the party’s views. BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma also said, “We condemn his remarks. Anyway he has withdrawn his remarks. Mahatma Gandhi is the father of our nation and our icon… The Congress doesn’t have the moral right to speak on Gandhi because it misused Gandhi’s name and looted the country."
Vij retracted his comments by evening. “Mahatma Gandhi par diya bayan mera niji bayan hai. Kisi ki bhavna ko aahat na kare isliye main ise waapis leta hoon (My comment on Mahatma Gandhi is my personal opinion. I take it back so that nobody’s feelings are hurt)."
Third, and one which we were all awaiting, is that the government has now claimed that it had absolutely no clue that Narendra Modi’s image was being used by KVIC. The Prime Minister’s Office never sanctioned the use of the image. An “upset" PMO has supposedly sought an explanation from the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and has made its disapproval “clear". How? That is not clear.
But Modiji ko gussa aya hai.
So, this makes it the third organisation or company to use Narendra Modi’s image on such a large scale for advertising. Only to be faced with an “upset" Modi. For everyone who compares Modi to Hitler, including Rahul Gandhi, shame on you. Because if Hitler’s image had been used without his permission in Nazi Germany, the owners of the company would have been packed off to the Kraków Ghetto and been made into soaps and lampshades.
So stop comparing him to Hitler. He’s a far better man.
Hitler was never shy of brand associations. And everyone from Hugo Boss who designed SS outfits to Volkswagen who was building a “cheap car" for Germans to Coke who created Fanta for the Nazis to Kodak who hired slave labourers from concentration camps and did business with the Nazi government or Siemens who made slave labourers from the holocaust construct the very gas chambers they would be gassed in were all working with Hitler and his government with Hitler’s blessings.
This is far from the case here. Here our own prime minister, a man not to be messed with, is being taken advantage of by various companies, including his own ministries. His image is being used without his consent or awareness. Instead of pillorying him, we should worry for him—and for ourselves. It’s tough enough to run a country without having to worry whether Harpic toilet cleaner or Manforce condoms will suddenly start carrying your face in their full-page ads in national newspapers. Also, if this can happen to Mr Modi, what hope do the rest of us common folk have against someone misusing our image for advertising or other reasons. But this is no time to think of ourselves.
This is the time for all of us to come together in support of Mr Modi and his exploitation by market and government forces. As Tammy Wynette said,