The Karnataka unit of the BJP is left both embarrassed and angry after former Indian athlete Anju Bobby George reportedly changed her mind to not join the saffron party. This was days after news agency ANI reported that Anju had accepted the membership of the BJP.
A day after the award-winning athlete holding a BJP flag in presence of former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa went viral, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan issued a denial stating that there was nothing political about the meeting that took place on Saturday.
Muraleedharan said that he had known ‘Anju and her husband Robert Bobby George’ for a long time. The minister, according to news agency IANS, said on Sunday, “Yesterday, I had a party programme in Bengaluru. She called me and asked if we could meet to which I agreed. When she came to the programme in which I was taking part, the event was about to begin. So I invited her to the dais, as she is an internationally acclaimed athlete.
Fact-checking website Boom Live spoke to Anju who denied joining the BJP. She was quoted by the website as saying, “I had gone there just to meet the minister (V Muraleedharan) who is a family friend. When the BJP leaders saw me standing near the stage, they called me on stage and greeted me with the flag. Even they did not know that I was present at the function. Sports is my party and I have no intention of joining any party.”
Muraleedharan is the only leader from Kerala in the cabinet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Anju too hails from Kerala and has been living in Bengaluru since she’s employed there by Customs.
However, a local BJP leader in Karnataka has rejected Muraleedharan’s statement claiming that Anju had indeed joined the saffron party on Saturday. Karnataka BJP media convener S Shantaram told ANI, “She came on stage, took party flag & our state President announced she joined BJP. Don’t know why she changed stand. Doesn’t she know the meaning of taking flag on stage from the president?”
42-year-old Anju made history in 2003 when she became the first Indian athlete to win a medal at the World Championships winning the bronze in Paris with a jump of 6.70 metres. Her personal best of 6.83 metres, recorded during the Athens Olympics in 2004, continues to remain a national record till date. She had secured the fifth position in Athens.
The Arjuna awardee athlete had served as the chairperson of the Kerala State Sports Council during the previous government of the Congress-led UDF in Kerala. She stepepd down from her post a month after the CPIM-led LDF came to power in May 2016.