MEERUT: A new battle is brewing in Hastinapur and at its centre is not Draupadi but Archana Gautam. Soon after Congress named the actor, model and beauty pageant title holder as the party's candidate from the constituency, bikini-clad pictures of her started surfacing on social media. The Hindu Mahasabha has now jumped in to say that her candidature from the "ancient, holy city" has hurt the sentiments of the Hindus and Jains, many of whom consider it a pilgrimage centre.
"It is no secret that Mahabharata-era Hastinapur, which is also a Jain pilgrimage centre, is revered by followers of different faiths, including Hindus. Congress has fielded a bikini model from here. We strongly protest this move and appeal to the party to withdraw her name or we will be forced to protest," said Ashok Sharma, national vice president of Hindu Mahasabha.
"I have nothing against any profession or individual, but a party must be careful what message its actions will convey to the general public at large," said BJP's west UP vice president Manoj Poswal.
Gautam, 26, winner of beauty pageants and actress last seen in adult comedy Great Grand Masti, remained unfazed. "I consider it nothing more than just trolling. I was born in Hastinapur, this is my birthplace. I know the region in and out and that is why Priyanka (Gandhi) didi found me suitable. Those who are circulating my bikini-clad pictures have exposed their own mindset. I am proud of what I do."
Rebuffing the criticism, senior Congress leader Alka Lamba said, "What kind of a mindset judges a woman by the role she portrays on screen or the profession they choose. Even (BJP leader) Smriti Irani was a model before appearing in TV serials. We do not support those who share posters from her modeling days. I want to tell Archana Gautam to stay put and keep working hard. If she wins, it will be a victory for the women, and also a victory over regressive ideologies."
Hastinapur in UP is a small town and assembly constituency on the banks of the Ganga in Meerut district. It was the capital city of the Kuru kingdom mentioned in the Mahabharata, and is home to various places of worship such as the Pandeshwara and the Karna temples. Hastinapur is also a major Jain pilgrimage centre as it is believed to be the birthplace of three Jain Tirthankaras.