Sparking a new controversy over the Mahatma Gandhi, Haryana Minister Anil Vij said on Saturday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a "bigger brand" than Gandhi but later retracted his statement as it attracted flak.
Congress hit out at Vij saying his comment is "reprehensible and also defames Mahatma Gandhi".
"Anil Vij's comment is reprehensible because it goes to tell you that the BJP is indulging in a personality cult creation at the cost of even defaming the Father of the Nation. This is a fascist mindset and propaganda," said Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha.
Vij, who is known for his controversial comments, including on the BJP and its leadership, told media persons in Ambala that after Mahatma's photographs were replaced with Modi's in the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) calendar 2017, Gandhi's picture would also be removed from currency notes.
While the Congress lambasted the mindset of the BJP Minister, the BJP distanced itself from the comments saying that his "views could be personal".
Vij, the state Health and Sports Minister later on Saturday tweeted: "The comments on Mahatma Gandhi are personal. I am withdrawing this so that it does not hurt anyone's sentiments."
However, he did not offer any apology for the comments.
Interacting with media persons in Ambala, Vij said that from the time that Mahatma Gandhi's name was associated with Khadi (movement), Khadi had failed. "Gandhi's name is not patented with Khadi."
"It's good that Modi's photo replaced that of Gandhi's in the calendar," Vij said.
The Minister did not stop there.
"Mahatma Gandhi ka aisa naam hai, note ke upar chipak gaya jis din se, note ki devaluation ho gayi. Achha kiya hai ke Gandhi ka hata ke Modi ka lagaya hai. Modi ziyada better brand name hai aur Modi ki photo lagney se 14 per cent sale badi hai khadi ki (Mahatma Gandhi's name is such that from the day his picture was pasted on the (currency) note, the note got devalued. It is good that they (KVIC) removed Gandhi's photo and put Modi's. Modi is a much better brand. Khadi sales have increased by 14 per cent after putting Modi's photo)," he said.
Asked why Gandhi's photographs were still printed on new currency notes issued under the Modi government, Vij said: "Hatt jayengey dheere dheere (They will be removed slowly)."
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also distanced himself from Vij's comments.
The whole controversy started with Modi's picture spinning the charkha appeared on the cover page of the Khadi Village Industries Commission (KVIC) calendar and diary, instead of the iconic picture of Gandhi weaving Khadi on a simple charkha, wearing his trademark loin cloth.