Tennis star Sania Mirza was named the brand ambassador of Telangana by the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) government on Wednesday. However controversy erupted on Thursday when Telangana Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader K Laxman called Mirza the "daughter-in-law" of Pakistan and questioned her credentials for the honour.
Latest Updates on #SaniaMirza controversy
Congress today slammed BJP MLA K Laxman over his criticism of tennis ace Sania Mirza being named the brand ambassador for Telangana even as it distanced itself from party MP V Hanumantha Rao, who invoked her marital connection to Pakistan.
"Laxman has made all these insinuations against Sania. Sports unites all Indians... Sania has done us proud in Asian, Olympic games. She and her family have deep history and connection with Telangana. This is divisive behaviour which all of us should condemn," Congress spokesperson Rajeev Gowda told reporters
Former IPS officer Kiran Bedi on Thursday said that the elected representatives who are opposing Sania Mirza's appointment as the brand ambassador of Telangana are involved in small talk and wasting everyone's time.
Bedi told ANI, "These elected representatives are involved in very small talk. This is small talk and wasting big time of everyone. A daughter remains a daughter, she doesn't lose the roots in her country, and some of our elected people refuse to grow up. If a man marries outside the country he is not called an outsider then why should a woman be called that?"
The tennis player also found support from CPI leader Brinda Karat who said that only a perverted and twisted mind can give such statements adding that the comment must be dismissed outright.
Laxman later told ANI, "Telangana after getting a majority, which was a mandate given by the Telangana people to govern all sections of people in Telangana. Our chief minister has promised to reconstruct Telangana into a new and old Telangana. I also appeal to forget politics and let us confine it to the elections."
"So, right from the day one this TRS party after coming closer to the MIM, keeping in mind the in swing Municipal Corporation elections of Hyderabad, this government has started appeasing a section of people to garner the votes, which this party does not have proper place in Hyderabad," he added.
Meanwhile Mirza has found plenty of voices of support from Bollywood. Several industry folks have tweeted congratulating her nomination as the brand ambassador, while others challenged the notion of her being an outsider.
Congratulating Sania Mirza, Bollywood director Farah Khan said she is a proud of Sania.
What really happened
Indian tennis star and World no. 5 in WTA doubles Sania Mirza was on Wednesday named the brand ambassador of the newly created Telananga state by the ruling party Telengana Rashtrya Samiti.
However controversy erupted on Thursday when Telangana Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader K Laxman flayed the TRS government's decision to appoint Mirza as the brand ambassador of the newly carved-out state, terming her as the "daughter-in-law" of Pakistan and questioning her credentials for the honour.
Calling her a 'non-local' and 'daughter-in-law of Pakistan', he alleged that the move by the TRS government was made to appease minority community.
Mirza, who is married to former Pakistan cricket captain Shoaib Malik strongly reacted tweeting, 'I pray for people who cannot be happy for others and who cannot let go of the pain and hatred inside them..May Allah bless u all.'
Laxman's comment found support by a few BJP and Congress leaders but also invited flak across all political parties.
While Sania Mirza said she was humbled to be nominated as the brand ambassador of Telangana, she sharply reacted to the comments by Laxman and other political leaders questioning her allegiance to the nation.
In a series of tweets, she said that it hurt her that a lot of time was spent on a petty issue of her being appointed as the Telangana ambassador. She said that she prayed for people who cannot be happy for others and who cannot let go of the pain and hatred inside them..May Allah bless u all.' Read more
She established her strong connect to the Hyderabad by tracing back her family history based in the city. She spoke about her family's contribution to the city and explained reasons behind her being born in Mumbai. Read more
"Sania Mirza has an international standing of her own, we have no problem, actually she is brand ambassador of India. " said Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar.
"Sania Mirza is a pride of India. Sania Mirza has an international standing on her own... So, we have no objection. I am sure she is pride of India. She is brand ambassador of India," Javadekar, also the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, told reporters.
While several political leaders including BJP's Subramanian Swamy and MJ Akbar echoed Laxman's stand, most others have criticised his statement. BJP leaders Prakash Javadekar and Murli Manohar Joshi issued statements in support of Mirza. "If someone says this then it reflects his culture," reacted senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi.
Congress Rajya Sabha MP Renuka Chowdhury said, "When a woman is made brand ambassador then controversies erupt but not when a man is made an ambassador." While Captain Amarinder Singh reacted saying "This is absurd, frankly I have no comment over this."
Leaders from Communist Party of India, Biju Janata Dal, Bahujan Samaj Party have all been critical of Laxman's comment. Mayawati supported the TRS' decision to name Mirza its brand ambassador saying, "We should welcome Telangana government's decision of choosing Sania Mirza as its brand ambassador,"
Senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has come out in support of BJP leaders who are opposing tennis star Sania Mirza's appointment as Telangana's brand ambassador because she married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik.
"We can't expect people with divided loyalties to represent India faithfully," he said.
Swamy told ANI, "I agree with the BJP leaders that when people have divided loyalties, we cannot expect them to represent the country or any part of the country faithfully. So, the BJP stand is well taken."
Comment on @saniamirza. BJP needs to be reminded that this country shall not allow a systematic undoing of the ideals of its forefathers.
— Ashish Khetan (@_KhetanAshish) July 24, 2014
Sania Mirza is an inspirational story of India; Grand Slam champ in doubles, singles ranking of 27, gold in Asian games. Problem anyone?
— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) July 24, 2014