World ‘didn’t know’ Mahatma Gandhi before Oscar-winning film says India’s Modi in bizarre claim

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has claimed that nobody knew who Mahatma Gandhi before British director Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning 1982 biopic.

Mr Modi’s bizarre has faced a wave of criticism following his remarks in his latest interview with ABP News broadcaster.

His controversial remarks have come as he tries to woo voters for a rare third term as the election race in the world’s largest election continues before the voting concludes next week.

"Mahatma Gandhi was a great soul. Wasn’t it our responsibility to get him that level of global recognition during the last 75 years?” Mr Modi asked.

“Nobody knew, please excuse me on this. The first time, when the Gandhi film was made [1982], the world got curious about who he might be.”

Mr Modi repented that the previous governments “didn’t do the needful” to uphold Gandhi’s global reputation in the world like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, as he was “no less than them”.

“Gandhi and because of him, India should have got the leverage. Today, Gandhi is part of the solution to many global problems, but we didn’t do it. We have lost out on a lot,” Modi said.

Opposition political parties and critics of Mr Modi have called him “ignorant” for making such a statement about a freedom fighter who was known worldwide for his struggle and inspired South African anti-apartheid crusader Nelson Mandela and American civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr, both of whom the prime minister mentioned.

The main opposition Congress party’s president Mallikarjun Kharge on Thursday called out Mr Modi for his comments and said he was “shocked” to hear it from a prime minister.

“I feel like laughing when I listen from the prime minister that he came to know about Mahatma after watching a film. Had he read about Mahatma Gandhi, he wouldn’t have said so,” he said.

“The whole world knows about Mahatma Gandhi. There are statues in front of UNO (United Nation Office). Many leaders praise Mahatma Gandhi… at least 70-80 countries have statues of him. Countries that have gained independence through non-violence, they all know about Mahatama Gandhi,” Mr Khagre added.

Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Gandhi family, took a jibe at Mr Modi. “Only a student of 'Entire Political Science' would need to watch the film to know about Mahatma Gandhi,” he wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter, taking an apparent dig at Mr Modi's masters degree.

Sitaram Yechuri of the Communist Party of India said the “father of the nation, Gandhi never needed anybody to promote his unparalleled legacy as a symbol of peace and non-violence! Before Modi was born Gandhi was nominated 5 times for the Nobel Peace prize!”.

Mr Modi’s comments on Gandhi have also set off a wave of reaction from people on social media who shared articles, honours and accolades received by Gandhi during his life time to honour his legacy.

Mr Modi was referring to Attenborough’s film, Gandhi, which received international acclaim. The film won eight Academy Awards in 1983 as well as best actor award for Ben Kingsley who played Gandhi on screen while Attenborough won best director and best picture award. The movie also won five BAFTA awards.