Olympian Anju Bobby George, who has come under attack from Kerala Sports Minister E.P. Jayarajan and his party colleague, on Wednesday decided to step down as president of the Kerala Sports Council, and the minister immediately welcomed the move.
"Good that she has resigned," Jayarajan told reporters and added that no one asked her to step down.
When it was pointed out that along with her the entire council has also resigned, he said, "Good, very happy to hear that also."
Senior Congress legislator and former sports minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, who had appointed George, said this is the end result of a conspiracy by the state government.
"This is a shame for sports loving Kerala as the council consisted of top flight international sports personalities. The state government should say why they are doing this," Radhakrishnan said.
State Congress President V.M. Sudheeran said George is a victim of the intolerance of the new government.
"We appointed her looking only into her talent and it was not a political appointment as we wanted to take sports to a new level under accomplished sporting personalities," he said.
Former chief minister Oommen Chandy said George never approached anyone seeking her post and this clearly shows the intolerant attitude of the Left government.
But Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan attempted to play down the issue. "If one council goes, another one will come in its place," he said.
The conflict began earlier this month after George got a dressing down from the minister when she went to meet him after he assumed office. The minister told her that a lot of corruption had taken place during her tenure.
"I was appointed by the former Kerala state government around six months ago and things started to go wrong when we decided to appoint an ethics commission which was given the mandate to probe corruption, nepotism, harassment over the entire gambit of the council for the past decade," George said after a meeting of the council here.
"The sports lottery that was conducted during the Left government (2006-11) is the biggest misappropriation that has taken place in the history of sports in the state. The infrastructure development in sports that takes place under the council is totally corrupt. The truth has to come out," said George, who added that her email was also hacked.
She said being a revenue official and someone who has travelled widely, she was surprised to see the files in the council, adding that the people of the state should know what is happening in the council.
"Sports can be killed, but the morale of the sports personalities cannot be killed. The father figure of sports in Kerala is Colonel G.V. Raja and he had to leave the council in tears. We do not see it any more apt to continue in this post and hence, including me, and the council of 12 officials are stepping down," George said.
She also clarified that her brother Ajith Markose is an accomplished coach and unnecessary allegations were raised which said he was favoured by the council for his appointment.
"Even the Athletic Federation of India has said that he is a qualified coach. And to put things in perspective, his appointment was not made by the council, but it was the previous state government that appointed him. However, in the wake of the allegations, he too has resigned from the post," George added.
George became the first Indian athlete ever to win a medal in a World Athletics Championships in Paris in 2003.
The Arjuna awardee has represented the country in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Championships from 2002 onwards.
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said it was most unfortunate that the new government is making things difficult for a world renowned athlete and forced her to step down, when they only thought that sports administration should be run by sports personalities and appointed her.