Former chief Brij Bhushan and protesting wrestler Vinesh blame each other for WFI suspension
The WFI elections were supposed to be held on August 12 but the Punjab and Haryana High Court stayed the polls, acting on a petition filed by Haryana Wrestling Association (HWA)
Outgoing WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, currently fighting sexual harassment charges levelled by women wrestlers, and celebrated grappler Vinesh Phogat on Saturday blamed each other for the national federation's suspension by UWW on account of not holding elections within 45 days.
The WFI elections were supposed to be held on August 12 but the Punjab and Haryana High Court stayed the polls, acting on a petition filed by Haryana Wrestling Association (HWA).
On Thursday, United World Wrestling (UWW) suspended WFI as a result of which Indian grapplers won't be able to compete at next month's World Championship under national flag.
It was on Friday that double world championship medallist Vinesh, who spearheaded a sit-on protest at Jantar Mantar for more than one month demanding Brij Bhushan's arrest, took to 'X', formerly Twitter, to accuse the outgoing WFI chief for bringing ignominy to the national federation. She also called him a "mafia".
"If one makes correct assessment of the loss of reputation of the WFI due to Bri Bhushan, he will be completely exposed. The national tri-colour hs been shamed by a mafia," Vinesh wrote on her social media page.
On Saturday, Brij Bhushan, the BJP MP from UP's Kaisarganj, hurled counter-accusations on Vinesh and her fellow protesters Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia for the suspension of WFI.
"These 'dharnaa jeevi' (protesting) players are responsible for WFI suspension. They are the ones who made a fun of wrestling and wrestlers of the country," he said during a media conference at his hometown.
"Today, the situation is very sad, as for the first time, India has been banned by the UWW since elections could not be conducted. If this problem is not resolved at the earliest, then there will be major loss for India. No wrestler under the banner of India could contest in the Olympics and World Championship," he said.
Brij Bhushan also accused Haryana federation for trying to put a spanner on the election procedure.
"Get the voting done in Haryana today itself, and then see who supports whom. I had tried to hold the elections in January, but do you know what all allegations were levelled at me? "After this, the government told me to stay away from wrestling for some days. Again after this, for four times, I tried to conduct the elections, but every time, there was some obstruction or the other," he said.
Brij Bhushan said that the UWW had given a categorical warning that if elections were not held within 45 days, India's membership would be cancelled, and eventually this happened.
He also said that he and his son Karan Singh had stepped aside and no one from his family is contesting the elections.
"All of you know that from UP, I and my son Karan Singh are voters. But, on the demand of the players, I and my son remained out of the election process but even then, the elections could not be held. The results are before the country," he said.
"On being asked by the sports ministry, I have distanced myself from wrestling. Now, neither I nor any member of my family is a part of this (sports). Now, they are demanding that I should leave the citizenship of India, but this is not possible for me." After Brij Bhushan's press conference, Vinesh once again took to the micro-blogging site 'X' to launch a second salvo at her bete noire.
"Brij Bhushan is still controlling the federation and he won't let anyone form an elected body without his interference. The man who has sexually harassed women wrestlers wants control of federation simply because if any credible person takes over as WFI chief instead of his stooges, then all his misdeeds will be exposed.
"A criminal, who is harming the country for his own selfish reasons and the world knows that. Brij Bhushan is doing this to save himself and also keep his stranglehold on the federation and his ulterior motives will only weaken Indian wrestling," she wrote.
Published: 27 Aug 2023, 10:07 AM