Lucknow/New Delhi: Unapologetic about her background as “Miss Bikini India” or about her pictures, actor-model Archana Gautam is at the centre of a growing controversy after the Congress picked her as its candidate from Uttar Pradesh’s Hastinapur seat with the BJP accusing the party of indulging in “cheap publicity”.
The Congress has defended its decision to field 26-year-old Gautam from the western Uttar Pradesh constituency, saying it’s shameful to read and hear demeaning marks against the young woman.
“She deserves our respect just like any other woman does. Those who are making derogatory remarks against her are only displaying their anti-women stance,” Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said in New Delhi.
“Her accomplishments in the beauty, fashion and entertainment industry cannot be undermined. Her candidature should be judged on her commitment to fulfill the promises that the Congress has made,” Shrinate added about Gautam whose pictures, some in a swimsuit, have been doing the rounds of social media and led to heated discussion.
The political debutante, picked by Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to contest the assembly elections from the largely rural, conservative belt, is the daughter of a homemaker mother and a farmer father. She has done her bachelors in journalism from Meerut.
The Congress also maintained it has given an opportunity to an artiste to enter the political space.
“If an artiste wants to come to politics and serve people, it is a good sign, and should be appreciated,” said state Congress spokesperson Ashok Singh.
The choice of Gautam — who won the Miss Bikini India contest in 2018 and has also featured in a couple of Hindi films, including the 2015 adult comedy “Great Grand Masti” — shows the Congress has no candidates and is ready to field anybody to garner cheap publicity and headlines, retorted Uttar Pradesh’s BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi.
“There is no feeling of serving public behind fielding such a candidate. It also shows that there is no seriousness in them (Congress), as they have fielded an ‘apolitical’ candidate. It also shows lack of maturity on their part,” Tripathi told PTI.
Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha and Sant Mahasabha chief Swami Chakrapani also hit out at the Congress candidate from the reserved assembly constituency in Meerut district, saying “nothing can be expected from a party which has gone mentally bankrupt”.
“If any person is entering social life, then he/she should be one who respects our culture. But the Congress differentiates between ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hindutva’. Nothing should be expected from the leaders of a party which has gone mentally bankrupt. Tomorrow, they can field a criminal as a candidate, and can stoop down to any level to garner votes,” he alleged.
As comments about her flooded social media platforms, Gautam was unafraid and unapologetic.
“To people who are abusing me and making vulgar statements about me, I want to say that I have two professional lives and they are both different from each other. I would like to not mix the two because I represented India on an international platform. I have made my country proud,” Gautam told PTI over the phone from Hastinapur.
“Priyanka didi saw my talent and she said that this girl will rise because of her hard work,” she said.
In the crosshairs of a debate on what constitutes culture, she went on to say that the Congress is the only party in India that never sells tickets.
“My party leaders saw and understood the passion I have to bring change in this city… We don’t indulge in religious politics or try to win elections using money power,” Gautam said.
The sitting MLA from the seat is Dinesh Khatik of the BJP.
Besides “Great Grand Masti”, starring Riteish Deshmukh, Vivek Oberoi and Aftab Shivdasani, Gautam was also seen in Shraddha Kapoor-led “Haseena Parker”. After winning the Miss Bikini India 2018 pageant, she represented India at Miss Cosmos World 2018.
Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh will be held in seven phases beginning February 10. The results will be announced on March 10.