A video of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi went viral on social media on Thursday which showed him without the mask, and refusing one when offered.
The 45-second video, whose authenticity is not established, is reportedly from a handicraft fair from Kutch, Gujarat, which Mr Modi visited on Tuesday.
Flanked by his security and officials, who are all wearing masks, the video shows the prime minister, without a mask, walking along the stalls.
Mr Modi stopped at a stall, which is selling traditional Gujarati clothing including masks, some of which had traditional designs. When the shopkeeper offered him a mask the prime minister refused, looked at another traditional dress and then after a few seconds walked ahead.
The video of the incident went viral on social media and many users including opposition leaders criticised the prime minister for setting a bad example.
Unlike many world leaders, Mr Modi since the start of the pandemic has repeatedly urged people to wear masks. He has requested people through his radio programme and set an example by wearing it himself during many of his official functions including even during video conferences.
The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) criticised the prime minister and tweeted a smaller version of the video with a caption, “Wear a mask. Don’t be like Modi ji.”
The prime minister’s office is yet to respond to the video.
On Wednesday, TS Singh Deo, a leader of another opposition party, Indian National Congress, had shared a picture which showed Mr Modi without a mask while sitting with a group of people who were all wearing masks.
“Yesterday, PM Modi had a small interaction with a few farmers from Gujarat. I am really impressed to see that our annadatas (food providers) are following the safety protocols and wearing a mask. WEAR A MASK!” tweeted Mr Deo.
According to the World Health Organisation, India has recorded nearly 10 million cases of Covid-19 including over 144,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic and is second only to the US, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases.
Though India has witnessed a dip in the number of daily cases in the past couple of months, experts have urged people not to take the pandemic lightly and wear masks and follow social distancing.