NEW DELHI: A controversy erupted today over the decision to discontinue postage stamps of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi with the government saying only one family can not get this honour, even as the Congress termed the move as "insult to the history" and demanded an apology.
Defending the move, Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also said that an advisory committee has suggested to replace the picture of Indira Gandhi with that of Yoga on inland letters, but no final decision has been taken as yet.
Prasad said a decision has been taken on advice of the Philatelic Advisory Committee to issue definitive series of stamps in the honour of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Deen Dayal Upadhyay, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Sardar Patel, Shivaji, Maulana Azad, Bhagat Singh, JP Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia, Vivekananda and Maharana Pratap.
"In the definitive stamp series, the focus was (so far) on one family... though other names were there. Mahatma Gandhi was there, Maulana Azad was there. Dr Ambedkar was there. Dr Bhabha was there," he said. The Minister said the new series is "inclusive" and seeks to encapsule the contribution of all the leading lights of the freedom movement including Jawaharlal Nehru.
Defending the decision to drop stamps on former Prime Ministers Indira and Rajiv Gandhi stamps, Prasad said the government believes that whoever has contributed in making of India, irrespective of the ideology, should be honoured and postage stamp is a symbol of that honour.
"We feel that this right should not belong to only one family," he added. Reacting sharply, Congress said the decision shows a "very narrow mindset" and demanded an apology from the government.
"We condemn the approach and attitude of this Government towards Gandhis who have sacrificed a lot for the nation. It is an insult to history", Congress party's senior spokesperson Anand Sharma told reporters here.
Prasad, on his part said, "We have been most liberal and understanding in giving due recognition to people of different ideology and approaches. All of them (who figure in the new series) have contributed in a very significant way to make modern India." He further said four commemorative stamps have been issued so far in memory of Indira Gandhi, two in the name of Rajiv Gandhi and seven times on Nehru.
"We need to ponder why so many commemorative stamps have been issued in memory of members of one family," he added. On definitive series stamps, Prasad said till now Nehru has figured eight times and he is still there. The definitive stamps are being issued on Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi since 2008.
"Congress party has been in power for so many years, but Maulana Azad has not figured in definitive stamp till date. I would like to ask Congress if Maulana Azad did not deserve to be included in definitive stamp...Dr Rajendra Prasad, Swami Vivekananda...Sardar Patel figured once in 2001 than disappeared," Prasad said.
"Congress party is making issue out of it, so we want to officially clarify. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi says 'sabka saath sab ka vikas' it means who all have contributed for the country, whatever their ideology was, we will honour all and not only one family," he added.
Postal stamps will be also be issued in Rabindranath Tagore, Mohd Rafi, Hemanta Kumar, Mukesh, Talat Mahmood, Manna Dey, Rabindranath Tagore, and renowned artists, like Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pt Ravi Shankar, M S Subbulakshmi. Stamps will also be issued in memory to freedom fighters like Chandra Shekhar Azad and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, he said.
"This shows the diversity of the country...Why Congress is worried. Have we removed Jawaharlal Nehru. Do the Congress people want to see the country through only one lens.
"We don't want to see this. This is the fundamental difference. Congress should tell, was Sardar Patel not of Congress, was Maulana Azad not of Congress, Nehru is there. Dr B R Ambedkar is there. We have also added Yoga," Prasad said.
He said the government wants to depict the diversity of the country on postal stamps. He also added the decision is not caste in stone and would be reviewed periodically.