Sports

Protesting Wrestlers Will Not Face Vendetta Politics, Says Outgoing WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh

The three top wrestlers that includes Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik had launched an agitation against Brij Bhushan accusing him of sexually exploiting several women wrestlers, early this year.

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh
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The protesting wrestlers will not face any sort of vendetta politics and they will get the required support from the new federation, outgoing WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said on Thursday after the panel backed by him emerged victorious in the keenly-followed elections. (More Wrestling News)

Brij Bhushan, who is facing sexual harassment charges from women wrestlers, assured that the new dispensation will work impartially. Rio Olympics medallist Sakshi Malik, though, announced her retirement from the sport, saying she won't compete under the presidency of a man, who is backed by the former WFI boss.

Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia are still active and hope to qualify for the 2024 Paris Games. The two wresters also expressed disappointment that Brij Bhushan loyalist Sanjay Singh had become the new WFI chief but did not follow Sakshi in quitting the sport.

The three top wrestlers had launched an agitation against Brij Bhushan accusing him of sexually exploiting several women wrestlers, early this year.

"All wrestlers will get support from the WFI. There will be no partiality. A lot of wrestlers, new and established ones, had sat on dharna on the first day of the protest (January 2023). No one will be singled out on that basis," Brij Bhushan told PTI when asked if the federation will support the wrestlers who had protested against him.

"We have to look after the game and not the mistakes of the wrestlers. If they will suffer due to their mistakes, then the federation will not be impartial."

Asked if he will continue to call the shots in the day-to-day running of the federation, Brij Bhushan said he won't interfere but if his help is sought he will offer suggestions.

"They (new body) will control wrestling, if they want to take suggestions I am open to give," he said.

It is also expected that the new body may change a few policy decisions that the ad-hoc panel had taken.

The Bhupender Singh Bajwa-led ad-hoc body had recently announced that the Olympic quota won by the wrestlers will not belong to that particular wrestler but to the country and the quota-winning wrestler will also have to undergo selection trials to book his or her place in the national team for the 2024 Paris Game.

"Whatever decision the ad-hoc panel has taken, if they are for the good of wrestling we will continue with that," he said.

The BJP MP, interestingly, claimed that they have swept the the posts even as the new secretary-general and senior vice-president emerged from the rival camp, led by CWG gold medallist wrestler Anita Sheoran.

"The entire panel is ours. Whoever has won, has won from our votes."

Former Railways Sports Promotion Board secretary Prem Chand Lochab is the new secretary-general while Devender Kadian, who was seen with the wrestlers during their media address at Press Club of India after the WFI polls, grabbed the post of senior vice-president.

The former WFI boss, who had a 12-year run in the federation, said the last 11 months were very unfortunate not only for him but also for the sport.

"It was a very sad time for me personally as well for the wrestling fraternity and in a way for the country since the country's image was dented (due to allegations against him)."

Brij Bhushan said the protesting wrestlers were exposed as time passed by.

"When the protest started on January 18, an atmosphere was created that there might be some truth. Some wrestlers got influenced but when we, the media, and the entire country started to ask for proofs, they got exposed gradually," he said.

Asked what got his panel the winning mandate despite such a large-scale agitation against him, the Kaiserganj MP listed a few factors.

"For 11 months the way the sport and the wrestlers suffered, it contributed (to our win). We had done something good for the sport in our tenure and the result of that is before everyone today.

"And I had firm belief that whenever elections will be held, our supporter will win the election because we worked as a team for the sport."

Brij Bhushan suggested that the newly-elected body should conduct the U-15 and junior nationals before December 31.

"My suggestion is that before December 31 if cadet and junior nationals do not happen, then it will be a loss. So my request to the new dispensation is to conduct U-15 and junior nationals first," he added.

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