Prime Minister Narendra Modi has evoked sharp criticism on social media and from the principal opposition party, the Congress, with his comments about Indians being “ashamed to be born in India”. The criticism was especially pronounced as these comments were made on foreign soil — in South Korea and China.

The first of these comments was made when Modi was addressing the Indian community in Shanghai. “Earlier, you felt ashamed of being born Indian. Now you feel proud to represent the country. Indians abroad had all hoped for a change in the government last year,” he had said.

He followed the same line of thought in Seoul, addressing a gathering of about 1,500 people.

“Earlier, people would lament. They would ask what sin they had committed to have been born in India. Businessmen wanted to leave the country for better opportunities abroad. But these people are now saying that they will come back even if their incomes are lower than in other places. The mood has changed,” he said.

These comments evoked a strong reaction on Twitter, where some criticised the PM for “insulting” India.

By late Tuesday morning, #ModiInsultsIndia had invited more than 1 lakh tweets. “Speak for yourself Sir. Strictly Yourself. #ModiInsultsIndia” tweeted one. “Narendra Modi has insulted not only the 125 crore people of India, but our parents, grandparents, freedom fighters. #ModiInsultsIndia,” went another tweet.

The Congress was the sharpest in its response, with former Union Minister Kapil Sibal playing the audio tape of Modi’s address at a press conference at the party headquarters here.

“No Indian Prime Minister has ever debased his own office in such a crass manner. I have never seen such low standards in politics. It is with a profound sense of sadness that one is watching an Indian PM lowering the prestige of his country on foreign soil,” said Sibal.

Houdini act He then went on to launch an all-round critique of Modi’s first year in office, sarcastically referring to him as a magician, a “Houdini” who is busy “manufacturing an illusion about the sad reality of India”.

“He talks big and praises himself. He claims all the world leaders are impressed by him. My humble request is — let somebody else praise you. Don’t keep praising yourself. And what has happened to all the big promises — to Make in India, black money which was supposed to have been brought within the first 100 days of his government?

“What has happened to women’s security — a woman has been gang-raped in south Delhi. What has happened to the falling rupee?” Sibal asked.