India’s nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi sparked a social media backlash on Tuesday after claiming his compatriots had once felt “ashamed” of their country.
Modi made the comments in speeches to members of the Indian diaspora during his recent visits to Shanghai and Seoul, and they were intended to illustrate how far the country had come.
But many Indians interpreted the comments as unpatriotic and took to social media to lambast the Hindu nationalist leader, using the hashtag #ModiInsultsIndia.
“The first PM who openly admits that he is ashamed of being an Indian. Proud of Modiji,” tweeted user Scotchy Shashtri.
“Ppl may dislike many things happening in India. Go abroad for better opportunities. But they’re NOT ashamed of being Indian,” read another tweet by user Tinu Cherian Abraham.
Modi’s comments, made during an official tour of East Asia, were a rare misstep by the Indian leader who has won praise for his often populist speeches.
“Earlier, you felt ashamed of being born Indian. Now you feel proud to represent the country,” he told hundreds of Indians in Shanghai.
After winning the first outright majority by any leader in three decades on May 16, 2014, Modi vowed “to make the 21st century India’s century” and turn it into a driver of the global economy.
The latest figures show India’s economy growing faster than China’s, with the IMF predicting expansion of 7.5 percent this year.
A spokesman for the opposition Congress party Sanjay Jha called Modi’s comments a “national disgrace” in a tweet.