Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed what appeared to be an Indian flag evoking sharp criticism from the Congress but the government clarified on Friday that it was only a memento.
The controversy erupted after super chef Vikas Khanna, who had dished up the fare for the prime minister’s dinner with Fortune 500 CEOs on Thursday, approached Modi with the flag crafted by children of Smile India Foundation to be gifted to President Barack Obama. When Khanna told him that he wanted to present it to Obama, Modi signed on it.
Modi also praised the chef for the dinner held at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York.
The story broke after the chef displayed the signed flag to the media.
According to the rules governing the national flag, putting any inscription on the flag is considered disrespect.
Twitter was abuzz on Friday under the hashtag #ModiDisrespectsTricolor after the incident and it evoked a sharp reaction from the Congress.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in New Delhi: “We are not petty like BJP. We respect the office of the prime minister… However high you may be, the national flag is above you, you should understand this.”
Congress leader Manish Tewari tweeted: “Has PM read Para 2.1 sub para 6& Para 3.28 of Flag Code 2002 that states lettering on National Flag is misuse. 3 yrs jail under PINH Act 2003.”
However, Press Information Bureau director general (media and communication) Frank Noronha clarified that the “memento signed by PM Modi did not have the Ashok Chakra on it or the ‘white’ colour band on it”.
“Story about PM Modi disrespecting the tricolor is false and mischievous. PM didn’t autograph the flag.”
“The flag autographed by PM #narendramodi was a design made by an enthusiastic child with unique abilities. It is not the #tricolour.”
“The #design has not been confiscated by any of the authorities as reported in a section of the #media.”
“NarendraModi’s gesture is a mark of #appreciation & aimed at encouraging the child with unique abilities,” Noronha said in a series of tweets.
The BJP accused the Congress of “raking up a controversy where none exists” and making “irrelevent and unwarranted” comments against Modi.