A controversy has erupted over Telangana government appointing Sania Mirza as the state's brand ambassador with BJP leader K Laxman describing her as "non-local" and "daughter-in-law" of Pakistan as the tennis ace hit back, saying she will remain an Indian till death.
"Sania was born in Maharashtra and settled in Hyderabad only later and, hence, is a non-local," Laxman, leader of BJP in the state assembly, said. He also dubbed her as "daughter-in-law" of Pakistan, as she is married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik.
The Telangana unit of the Congress too described her as unfit for the honour. "Sania does not fit into the brand image of Telangana and Hyderabad," state Congress chief Ponnala Lakshmaiah said.
"She (Sania) has credentials in something else (tennis). How does she fit into the brand image of Hyderabad and Telangana?" he told PTI.
Meanwhile, the tennis star slammed attempts to tag her as an outsider and said her family had its roots in Hyderabad. "My family belongs to Hyderabad for more than a century and I strongly condemn any attempts by any person, whosoever, to brand me an outsider," she said in a statement.
"It hurts me that so much precious time of prominent politicians and the media is being wasted on a petty issue of my being appointed the Brand Ambassador of my State of Telangana," Sania said.
"I am married to Mr. Shoaib Malik, who is from Pakistan.
I am an Indian, who will remain an Indian until the end of my life," she said.
Sania said she was born in Mumbai as her mother needed to be at a speciality hospital since she was seriously unwell at the time of her birth. "I came home to Hyderabad when I was 3 weeks old. My forefathers have lived in Hyderabad for more than a century. My grandfather, Mr. Mohammed Zaffer Mirza started his career as an engineer in Nizam's Railways in Hyderabad in 1948 and died in his ancestral home in Hyderabad," she said She also said her great grandfather, Mohd. Ahmed Mirza was also born and raised in Hyderabad. He was the Chief Engineer, Water Works, Hyderabad and was responsible for constructing the famous Gandipet Dam.
"My great, great grandfather, Mr. Aziz Mirza was the Home Secretary under the Nizam in Hyderabad and worked tirelessly for relief works during the Musi River floods of 1908. "So, my family belongs to Hyderabad for more than a century and I strongly condemn any attempts by any person, whosoever, to brand me an outsider," she added. Laxman alleged the TRS government had appointed Sania as brand ambassador with an eye on minority votes in the upcoming elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation.
He said the 27-year-old player had never participated in the agitation for a separate Telangana state. Describing Sania as the "daughter of Hyderabad", Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had on Tuesday appointed her as the state's brand ambassador and handed over a cheque of Rs one crore.