NEW YORK: A controversy erupted today after Prime Minister Narendra Modi autographed a cloth painting, with critics on social media saying it was disrespect to the national tricolour but the government strongly denied it.
The piece of cloth has an artistic work of handicraft prepared by a differently-abled girl and was signed by Modi when she met him along with celebrity chef Vikas Khanna, who had prepared the menu for the Prime Minister's dinner with Fortune 500 CEOs last night.
As the chef displayed the signed piece of cloth to the media, social media was abuzz with criticism and opposition Congress latched on to it.
Government spokesman Frank Noronha denied that the Prime Minister had signed on the national flag and said it had not been confiscated as reported.
Noronha, Director General (Media and Communication), Press Information Bureau, said in New Delhi that the piece of cloth was a work of handicraft prepared by a differently-abled girl and the Prime Minister had autographed it on compassionate basis.
“The piece of cloth does not have white colour nor the wheel....It has been prepared by the girl with her toe and the Prime Minister was compassionate," he said.
He termed as "absolutely false" that it had been confiscated.
Congress' chief spokesman 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."
He said Modi must look within and take corrective action as respect for the national flag is the responsibility of 125 crore people, more so for the Prime Minister.
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."
The BJP accused Congress of "raking up a controversy where none exists" and making "irrelevant and unwarranted" comments on Modi.
The Indian Flag Code, 2002, states that putting any kind of inscription upon the Indian national flag is construed as disrespect to the flag. It also states that lettering of any kind shall not be put on the tricolor.
Prime Minister told the chef that he had done him proud by preparing an elaborate menu for his guests — over 50 top American CEOs who met him at the Waldorf Astoria hotel here.