The Uttar Pradesh Congress is facing a revolt-like situation following the candidate selection for 125 Assembly seats.
Knives are out for Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Hastinapur and at the centre of controversy is actor and model Archana Gautam.
Days after the Congress named the actor as its candidate, scantily dressed photographs of Archana Gautam have started surfacing on social media.
The Hindu Mahasabha has now jumped in to say that her candidature from the 'ancient, holy city' of Hastinapur is an insult to Hindus and has hurt the sentiments of the Hindus and Jains, many of whom consider it a pilgrimage centre.
Ashok Sharma, national vice president of Hindu Mahasabha, said, "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."
BJP's west UP vice president Manoj Poswal, meanwhile, said, "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."
Within the Congress too, there is considerable resentment over the ticket to Archana Gautam.
The various WhatsApp groups in the party have been questioning the choice of candidate and also the rationale behind it.
"When has Archana Gautam participated in a party programme and what is her contribution to the Congress? She is not even a victim," wrote a Congress leader in the group while another suggested a 'Buddhi Shuddhi Yajna' for Priyanka Gandhi.
Archana Gautam, 26, winner of beauty pageants and actress, last seen in adult comedy 'Great Grand Masti', however, 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 found me suitable. Those who are circulating my bikini-clad pictures have exposed their own mindset. I am proud of what I do," she told the media.
Rebuffing the criticism, a senior Congress spokesman 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 modelling days."
Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh 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 and houses a large number Jain temples.
Meanwhile, Priyanka Maurya -- the poster girl for the party`s campaign 'Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon' for the UP polls -- has alleged that she was denied a ticket for the Assembly elections because she refused to pay a bribe.
She claimed that instead of giving the ticket to her, it was given to a person who joined the party just a month back.
"I completed all the formalities but the ticket was pre-planned and was given to a person who came just a month back. I want to send this message to Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi that such things are happening on the ground," said Maurya.
She further alleged that she got a call from an unknown person wherein the caller asked her for money in return for a ticket, to which she refused.