(EDs: Updating with details on BSP leaders requesting change of colour; govt reax) Badaun (UP), Apr 10 (PTI) A freshly installed 5-foot-tall statue of Dalit icon Bhimrao Ambedkar in saffron jacket in Badaun district of western UP was re-painted blue today after local BSP leaders’ intervention amid questions over the choice of a colour associated with Hindutva.

The saffron-attire statue in Kuwargaav village was a replacement for a smaller Ambedkar statue that was damaged Friday night by some anti-social elements.

However, it was re-painted blue this morning at the request of local BSP leaders in presence of members of Ambedkar Suraksha Samiti, BSP workers and villagers, an official said.

Earlier, some officials had claimed the statue was re-painted by the administration.

Sub-Divisional Magistrate (Sadar) Parasnath Maurya said “the previous statue of Babasaheb, shortlisted by a committee of the police and district administration, was barely three feet high. Later, a saffron statue was selected. The cost of this statue was Rs 22,000 and it was paid for by the committee.” Asked about the saffron hue, the SDM said, “the committee members had brought blue paint along, but the statue was installed before giving it a blue coat. Today, the statue has been repainted blue by a local painter.” “The saffron-attire statue of Babasaheb was installed in the presence of district administration yesterday, but re-painting was done this morning in the presence of members of Ambedkar Suraksha Samiti, BSP workers, villagers and village pradhan. The re-painting was done in a very peaceful manner and there was no protest,” the SDM said.

BSP district chief Hemendra Gautam explained that the first priority was to install the statue.

“Our first priority was to install the statue, so we did not bother about the colour,” he said, adding that he later on requested the administration that it should be re-painted blue.

“When Babasaheb embraced Buddhism his dress was of saffron colour. The colour of the rising Sun is also saffron,” Gautam said.

However, the incident, reminiscent of an earlier episode where the state Haj Committee office boundary wall was painted saffron and then repainted white, prompted opposition parties to question the ruling BJP, which has often been accused of ‘saffronisation’.

“It was the BJP people who had forced Babasaheb to leave Hinduism and embrace Buddhism, and today these people are enacting a drama of adopting Babasaheb. Till today, Babasaheb’s statue used to be either blue or white, but these people gave a saffron colour to the statue and made an effort to damage the dignity of Babasaheb. The disciples of Babasaheb are feeling angry,” Samajwadi Party leader and Badaun MP Dharmendra Yadav said.

Meanwhile, spokesman for the state government and cabinet minister Siddharthnath Singh said it would be better if people followed the path shown by Ambedkar rather than worrying about the colour.

“If people follow the path shown by Ambedkar, it will be better for the country and the society…Babasaheb would not have thought that he has to wear blue only,” he said.

“The idea that Babasaheb should be seen in only one colour seems a little strange…we have faith in the ideals of Ambedkar,” the minister said.

Earlier, it was on a complaint by Kalicharan, the head of Ambedkar Suraksha Samiti, that a case was registered against a person for allegedly damaging Ambedkar’s statue, a police spokesperson said.

A constable was also suspended in this regard, the spokesperson said. On April 7, the statue at Ambedkar park in Kuwargaav was found damaged. Superintendent of Police Kamal Kishore said the police had covered the vandalised statue with cloth and initiated a probe into the incident.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.