A controversy erupted on Thursday over a BJP leader opposing the appointment of tennis player Sania Mirza as the brand ambassador of Telangana state.
K Laxman, leader of the BJP in Telangana legislative assembly, had questioned on Wednesday the credentials of Sania, while terming her Pakistan's "daughter-in-law" .
With the issue triggering a big debate, Sania, who is married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, issued a statement on Thursday, saying she was hurt because "time is being wasted on a petty issue".
Asserting her Hyderabadi roots, Sania added her ancestors had contributed to Hyderabad and her marriage to Malik did not take away the fact that she was an Indian citizen. "My forefathers have lived in Hyderabad for more than a century."
"I am married to Shoaib Malik, who is from Pakistan. I am an Indian, who will remain an Indian until the end of my life," Sania said in the statement.
Laxman, meanwhile, came under scathing attack from rival political parties such as the Congress, CPI(M) and the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
"Only a twisted mind can give such a statement, the comment must be dismissed outright," an ANI tweet quoted senior CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat as saying.
TRS leader Keshav Rao too lambasted Laxman. "This is foolish talk. We don't care what anyone says. She is an international achiever."
Facing flak, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre tried to quell the controversy, saying Mirza was the "brand ambassador of India".
"Sania Mirza has an international standing of her own. She is the pride of India," Union information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar said, according to news agency ANI.
However, Laxman, who had termed Sania a "non-local", refused to budge from his stand. He said the tennis player's contribution to Telangana statehood was nothing.
"This TRS Govt has started appeasing a segment to garner votes (sic)," he was quoted as saying by ANI.
Meanwhile, there is a perception that Mirza's Pakistan connection is not the only reason behind the controversy.
A section of leader's in the state is believed to be opposed to a person not even remotely associated with the Telangana movement being given the role.
CM K Chandrasekhara Rao's had recently decided to deny scholarships to children who were born and brought up in Hyderabad but were originally from Seemandhra.
The question that is being raised is if students belonging to Seemandhra are being branded as outsiders and denied scholarships, then why a person born in Mumbai and connected with Pakistan was chosen to be the brand ambassador of the state.
(With agency inputs)