Ambedkar Nagar (Uttar Pradesh): Denied permission to garland a statue of B R Ambedkar in this town named after him, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has opted to offer floral tributes to a picture of the architect of the Constitution on his birth anniversary here on Wednesday.
Local Congress workers have hastily mobilised a large portrait of Ambedkar, which has been placed prominently at the venue of a party rally to be addressed by Gandhi on the occasion that also coincides with the leader flagging off 'yatras' on the Congress' 125 years.
The Congress and Uttar Pradesh's ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have been at loggerheads ever since Gandhi declared his plans to kick off the Congress' 125th anniversary campaign in Ambedkarnagar, widely known as BSP supremo and chief minister Mayawati's bastion.
"As Rahul-ji was coming all the way to Ambedkarnagar on an occasion like Babasaheb's birth anniversary, it was natural for him to garland his statue here, but the administration has created so many hurdles that Rahul Gandhi would now garland Babasaheb's portrait," said spokesperson of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Subodh Srivastava.
Officials in the administration deny allegations that they hastily got down to finding ways and means to prevent Gandhi from garlanding Ambedkar's statue in the town.
"No permission was sought by the Congress party for garlanding the Ambedkar statue so where is the question of denial of permission," said an official.
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Srivastava retorted: "Well, I do not think we need to take the government's permission to garland the statue of a revered national leader - that too on his birth anniversary."
As the war of words continued, the administration placed a heavy security ring around the statue, preventing anyone from venturing into the cordoned off area.
"The security is there only to prevent any untoward incident and in the larger interest of law and order," Ambedkarnagar District Magistrate Vikram Singh said.
Tensions between the Congress and the BSP, which reveres Ambedkar as an icon, have been continuing for a while.
The administration had earlier refused Gandhi access to a particular ground for his rally, compelling him to settle for another venue in the neighbourhood. That ground was formally "reserved" for a similar show by the BSP.