Reports of Anju Bobby George, Olympian long jumper and India’s first athletics medalist at the World Championship joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are false, with the athlete herself denying the same.
Asian News International (ANI), tweeted a photo of George holding a BJP flag along with BJP Karnataka chief BS Yeddyurappa and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan at a BJP function claiming that she had joined the party.
The tweet read, "Anju Bobby George, India’s first athletics medallist at the World Championship, joins BJP in presence of Karnataka BJP President BS Yeddyurappa "
The news of George joining the party appeared in the wake of the BJP launching its nationwide membership drive to coincide with the 118th birth anniversary of Bharatiya Jan Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee.
BOOM spoke to George, who denied that she had joined the BJP 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," added George.
Union Minister for State for External Affairs V. Murlaeedharan also rubbished reports of the athlete joining the BJP while speaking to the media on July 7, 2019.
"I have had a long association with Anju and her husband Robert Bobby George. 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," said
Murlaeedharan reported The New Indian Express.
Media outlets pick up ANI's tweet
Following ANI's tweet, several other media outlets including Times of India (TOI), News Nation, and NDTV also misreported that George had joined the BJP citing ANI.
NDTV carried an ANI report on George joining the BJP.
Karnataka BJP media convener S Shantaram causes confusion
After BOOM published its fact-check ANI tweeted quoting Karnataka BJP media convener S Shantaram saying, "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 meaning of taking flag on stage from president? "
BOOM contacted Ishaan Prakash, Editor of ANI live services, who said ANI had confirmed with BJP Karnataka media convener S Shantaram before tweeting the news of George joining the party
"He confirmed to us that she had joined the BJP," said Prakash.
However ANI's original story did not cite any party source or the athlete herself confirming the move.
BOOM spoke to S Shantaram who claimed that 'miscommunication' occurred because George shared the dais with BJP leaders and accepted the party flag in her hand. "She received the flag from the state president himself," he said.
On being quizzed whether it is a procedure if one hold the party flag one becomes a party member, Shantaram replied with the following.
"If she has come over there to meet a person, why did she share a dais? When she shared dais it was (a) message that she was joining BJP."
BOOM again reached out to George who reiterated that she did not go there to join the BJP and had gone to meet Minister of State for External Affairs
(The story has been updated to include quotes from ANI, Karnataka BJP media convener S Shantaram, and Anju Bobby George)