New Delhi: The photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the calendar and the diary of Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) kicked up a row on Friday, with the Opposition slamming the development even as the government and BJP dismissed the controversy as “unnecessary”. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), while dismissing the controversy as “unnecessary”, said “there is no rule in KVIC that its diary and calendar should have only Gandhiji’s photo.” KVIC chairman V K Saxena also defended the move, saying there is “no rule or tradition” that only Mahatma Gandhi’s picture can be published on these items. Maintaining that Gandhiji’s stature is such that he can never be replaced by anyone, Saxena said, “This whole controversy is unnecessary and out of the context.” KVIC is a statutory body established by an Act of Parliament. Saxena was appointed as Chairman of KVIC in October 2015 by the Centre. Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi was among those who was deeply critical of the calendars and diaries. “Bapu’s charkha was the source of income for the poor people. Now has become a photo prop,” he said. “The Mangalyaan effect,” Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi tweeted, implying that Modi was trying to take credit for promotion of KVIC like he had allegedly done after India’s spacecraft Mangalyaan landed on the Mars. Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “Khadi & Gandhiji are symbols of our history, self-reliance & struggle. Removing Gandhiji’s photo is a sacrilegious sin.” At the AICC briefing, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said “Gandhiji is too great to be replaced by any one”. Sharply critical of Modi, he said while the RSS ideology killed Gandhiji, “a former RSS pracharak” has replaced him on diary and calendar of the KVIC on which the Mahatma has left a “unique stamp”. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “The great symbol of ‘charka’ (wheel) and Mahatma Gandhi now gets replaced by Modi babu. In the calendar and diary of Khadi (KVIC) 2017, Modi replaced Mahatma Gandhiji. Gandhiji is the Father of the Nation.” “Modiji what???” JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi said it was a matter of “big shame” that Mahatma Gandhi’s picture was removed in a year when the country was celebrating centenary anniversary of his first Satyagraha movement in Champaran in Bihar. He demanded Saxena’s sacking for the “tuglakhi’ decision. Reacting to the controversy, PMO sources said in the past also, there was no picture of Mahatma Gandhi on such KVIC material. “In the calendars and diaries of 1996, 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016, there was no picture of Gandhi. So there is no question of Modi replacing Gandhiji’s picture,” the sources said. “Those stoking the controversy over the issue should realize that during Congress rule of 50 years, the sale of khadi remained restricted to 2 per cent to 7 per cent but in last two years, the sale has seen an unprecedented jump of 34 per cent. This is because of PM’s efforts to popularise khadi,” they added. The PMO said “Modi is an icon of the youth and the growing popularity of khadi in the world is testimony to this.” The PMO said the KVIC diary and calendar has photographs of Modi distributing charkha among poor women. “It is not that Modi has replaced Gandhi. The pages of the calendar are month wise and in just one page Modi’s photo is there,” said Union Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Kalraj, while admitting that he is yet to see the calendar. “Gandhiji has his own place, nobody can take it,” he told reporters.