Fact-check: Did Gautam Gambhir use a body double for his election campaign?

A photograph related to BJP’s East Delhi candidate Gautam Gambhir’s campaign trail has gone viral on social media. In the image, Gambhir can be seen seated on the front passenger seat while an unidentified man is standing on top of the vehicle and waving at the crowd. It is being claimed that Gambhir had hired a doppelganger who was campaigning on his behalf. 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!”.

AAP social media head also quote-tweeted Kapil’s tweet with a comment, “2 वोटर कार्ड – 2 गौतम गंभीर (2 voter card -2 Gautam Gambhir -translated)”. 

Joint Secretary of AAP, Akshay Marathe went a step further by tweeting a collage of photos to suggest that a Congress leader named Gaurav 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 also 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.

Fact-check

Alt News found that the man claimed to be Gambhir’s ‘duplicate’ has had a long association with the BJP candidate. The individual’s name is Gaurav Arora. We found multiple pictures and videos of Arora where he is flanked by Gautam Gambhir. These pictures date back to the time before Gambhir joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Was Gaurav Arora posing as a body double for Gambhir?

Alt News was able to access multiple pictures of Gambhir’s rally 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 thing, or whether he was indeed posing as the candidate. In the picture below, Gaurav Arora can be seen standing on top of an open jeep and waving at the crowd. As opposed to the picture that is viral on social media, here Arora is seen waving in the opposite direction. It can also be observed that besides Arora, no one else is waving at the crowd.

In the gallery below, you can see multiple pictures from the same spot, where atop the vehicle Arora kept waving at the crowd.

Notably, Gambhir and Arora were also dressed similarly, both donning a white dress and a cap.

Source: Via Twitter – The Indian Express/Abhinav Saha

Despite the fact that both men have markedly different physique, the difference may not be so clear from a distance in a rally. As seen in the picture below, Arora was seen accepting and wearing garlands in the rally, which is typical of a contesting candidate.

Source: Via Twitter – The Indian Express/ Abhinav Saha

Alt News contacted The Indian Express photographer Abhinav Saha who reported the incident. Saha said, “Gambhir was on the vehicle when I first took the picture. 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. 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 with another journalist who was present at the location when Arora switched his place with Gambhir. The reporter on the condition of anonymity said, “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 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.” 

BJP denies

Alt News got in touch with 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 give clarity in this regard.

BJP has reportedly denied the allegation that Gambhir had used a “lookalike” and said that he had sat down because he was feeling unwell. Speaking to The Indian Express, BJP’s East Delhi Lok Sabha in-charge Rajiv Babbar said, “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. Meanwhile, party workers atop the vehicle kept waving at people. Waving of hands by workers atop campaign vehicles is a normal practice.

Conclusion

Arora’s past 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 that Alt News spoke with, 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 Gambhir’s friend, Arora. At the least, 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 a misleading series of events. Whether this was by design or a coincidence cannot be conclusively ascertained.

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