A photograph of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s East Delhi candidate Gautam Gambhir on the campaign trail has gone viral. In the image, Gambhir can be seen seated on the front passenger seat while an unidentified man is standing on top of the vehicle, waving at the crowd.
It is being claimed that Gambhir had hired a doppelganger to campaign on his behalf in the scorching Delhi summer. Aam Aadmi Party supporter Kapil tweeted the photo claiming that Gambhir had “hired a ‘duplicate’ to stand for him in the heat and campaign for him!”.
Aam Aadmi Party social media head Ankit Lal also quote-tweeted Kapil’s tweet with a comment, “2 वोटर कार्ड – 2 गौतम गंभीर” or “two voter card – two 2 Gautam Gambhir”. This was a reference to the complaint filed by Gambhir’s rival, Aam Aadmi Party candidate Atishi, that the cricketer-turned-politician possessed two voter cards.
Aam Aadmi Party Joint Secretary Akshay Marathe went a step further by tweeting a collage of photos to suggest that a Congress leader named Gautam Arora was campaigning for Gambhir as a “stunt double”. Another AAP supporter Durgesh Pathak also made the identical claim, posting the same images.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia quote-tweeted a tweet by Pathak taking potshots at Gambhir and his party for allegedly using a “duplicate” in order to avoid the heat. Kundan Kumar, a journalist with Hindi news channel TV9 Bharatvarsh, was one of the earliest to tweet the image.
Alt News found that the man claimed to be Gambhir’s duplicate has had a long association with the BJP candidate. His name is Gaurav Arora. We found several pictures and videos of Arora with Gautam Gambhir. These pictures date back to the time before Gambhir joined the BJP.
Alt News accessed several pictures of Gambhir’s rally taken from the same spot as the viral picture. We tried to ascertain whether Arora’s hand waving as can be seen in the viral image was a one-off gestures, or whether he was indeed trying to pose as the candidate.
In the picture below, Gaurav Arora is standing on top of an open jeep, waving to the crowd. Besides Arora, no one else is waving at the crowd.
This set of pictures below has several images from the same spot, showing that Arora kept waving at the crowd (click on arrows on the sides of the pictures).
Notably, Gambhir and Arora were also dressed in similar fashion, both wearing white clothes and dark caps.
Despite the fact that both men have markedly different physiques, the difference between them may not be so clear from a distance in a rally. As seen in the picture below, Arora was seen accepting and putting on garlands in the rally, behaviour that is typical of a contesting candidate.
Alt News contacted The Indian Express photographer Abhinav Saha who reported the incident. “Gambhir was on the vehicle when I first took the picture,” said Saha. “Then, I went on the third floor of a building, where I was accompanied by an old man. Meanwhile, Arora had replaced Gambhir at the exact spot, where he stood before. At the time, I started clicking pictures, the old man and his wife [who was standing on the first floor] were gazing at Gambhir in the rally. The couple said to me that they were happy that Gambhir waved back at them. He was waving all the while at the people.’
Saha added: “Anyone, who is watching him from the terrace will assume that he is Gambhir waving back at them. Arora was not standing with Gambhir when he was on top of the jeep, Arora only came after when Gambhir went and sat at the front seat. I myself took the shot and only later realised, after zooming in the pictures, which I had clicked, that it wasn’t Gambhir.”
Alt News also spoke to another journalist who was at the location when Arora switched places with Gambhir. The reporter said on the condition of anonymity, “Gambhir was standing on top of the vehicle, while Arora was seating in another car. In the middle of the rally, Gambhir shifted to the front passenger seat of the same car and Arora occupied Gambhir’s position on top of the car. At least for half an hour, I saw Gaurav Arora standing on top of the vehicle and waving at the public. So, I was a little bit confused because he was also sporting a cap and accepting garlands.”
This person added: “This was not in sync with Gambhir’s usual behaviour from what I had seen in his previous rallies. So I went even closer to confirm whether he is Gambhir or not and later realised that it was actually Arora.”
Alt News contacted Gaurav Arora to verify whether he was indeed the man standing on top of the open jeep while Gautam Gambhir was seated in the car. Gaurav Arora evaded the question and refused to shed any light on the matter.
The BJP has reportedly denied the allegation that Gambhir had used a “lookalike” and said that the candidate sat down because he was feeling unwell. “For 10-15 minutes during the campaign, Gambhir felt a little giddy due to the heat and sat in the front seat of the campaign vehicle,” said Rajiv Babbar, the BJP official overseeing the party’s campaign in East Delhi. “Meanwhile, party workers atop the vehicle kept waving at people. Waving of hands by workers atop campaign vehicles is a normal practice.”
Arora’s older photographs with Gambhir clearly show a long association with the cricketer-turned-BJP candidate. Thus, the claim that Gambhir had hired a body double doesn’t hold water. However, the journalists to whom Alt News spoke and who were covering Gambhir’s rally, did mistake Arora as the BJP candidate because they were similarly dressed. They seemed to have realised only later that the person was Arora.
The fact that Gaurav Arora was standing on top of the vehicle where Gambhir would normally be expected to stand and was seen waving at the crowds and accepting garlands was confusing. Whether this was by design cannot be conclusively ascertained.
This article first appeared on AltNews.