Olympian and Arjuna awardee Anju Bobby George on Thursday accused Kerala Sports Minister E P Jayarajan of allegedly insulting her with “corruption” charges even as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan came out in support of his Cabinet colleague.
Jayarajan, who denied the charge, found himself at the centre of another controversy days after leaving the CPI(M)- led LDF government red-faced when he described boxing icon Muhammad Ali as a sportsman from Kerala during his obituary reference.
Anju, President of the Kerala Sports Council, said she had complained to the chief minister regarding the issue.
She was appointed to the post by the previous Congress-led UDF government.
On Anju’s allegation that the sports minister had insulted her and spoken harshly, Vijayan told a meet-the-press programme in Thiruvananthapuram, “The sports minister had only asked her about her flight tickets. How does that become an insult?”
“The previous government had offered her various concessions, including sponsoring her flight tickets from Bengaluru to Thiruvananthapuram. That was not a proper practice,” the chief minister said.
When she came to meet him, Vijayan said he told Anju that they had not seen her as a political person.
Anju, who made history after she won a medal in the World Championships in Athletics in 2003, said she had gone to meet the Sports Minister along with the Council Vice President on June 7 after the new government came to power.
“We thought he will ask us about the status of sports in Kerala. In the first meeting itself, the minister said ‘you all are elected members by the previous ministry. So you all are other party members… All transfers and appointments you are doing are illegal,” Anju told PTI.
The athlete said the minister also objected to the flight tickets availed by her from Bengaluru, where she is based, to Thiruvananthapuram for attending the council meetings.
This facility had been allowed by the previous government, she said.
She alleged that the minister had told her that it was all corruption and against rules and he could stop all of this.
Anju said besides her, Preeja Sreedharan, Indian Hockey captain P R Sreejesh and Kerala Cricket Association President, T C Mathew, are other members of the Council.
“The minister said that all of us are involved in corruption. We are not acting for any political party. Sports is our party. I am not a member of Congress, Communist or BJP,” Anju said.
“We are doing our duty. If the government is not ready to accept that, they can ask us to leave. But instead, calling all of us corrupt is not acceptable,” she said.
Asked if she planned to quit her post, Anju said she had not taken a decision yet.
“We are sports persons. I have a duty to inform the Chief Minister about the minister’s behaviour,” she said.
Jayarajan, however, denied the charge and said Anju had parted “very happily” after meeting him.
Asked about her charge, the minister said he had not behaved rudely.
“No, never,” he told reporters. He said he was not aware that the athlete had complained to the Chief Minister.