WFI elections: Brij Bhushan’s show of arrogance makes it a farcical affair

Sakshi Malik & Co’s plea of not letting someone ‘close’ to Brij Bhushan contest would not have been legally tenable

Sanjay Kumar Singh (left), a close aide of the tainted Brij Bhushan Singh, was elected the new WFI president (photo: social media)
Sanjay Kumar Singh (left), a close aide of the tainted Brij Bhushan Singh, was elected the new WFI president (photo: social media)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

A day after the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) elections, the presence of Brij Bhushan Singh Sharan looms large everywhere in the media, despite him supposedly being persona non grata in these polls. A tweeted video from news agency ANI shows Brij Bhushan holding an impromptu press conference by himself as Sanjay Kumar Singh, the newly elected WFI president and Brij Bhushan's close aide, stands next to him. 

‘’This is not our win, it’s a victory of the wrestling community,’’ Brij Bhushan said. But the question that begs to be asked is: in what capacity did he say this? It’s a no brainer that the new president is a proxy candidate of the former WFI strongman and BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh, and elections of sports federations are replete with such precedents.

However, when the new incumbent visits Brij Bhushan’s residence soon after the results and the latter corners all the limelight, it highlights his complete arrogance, not to speak of the immunity that he enjoys. 

The parallel narrative is that of Sakshi Malik, the only Indian women’s wrestler to win an Olympics medal, breaking down in tears at a press conference the same day, and announcing her retirement. It’s certainly not a happy message from a country which is aiming to host an Olympics in 2036 but then, the wrestlers should have seen it coming. 

Keeping aside the emotional quotient in the entire controversy, which earned WFI a ban from the world wrestling body UWW and played havoc with wrestling activities in the country, it has to be admitted that the trio of Malik, Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat were up against far more politically astute and powerful opponents.

Since their main plank was a demand for the arrest of Brij Bhushan on charges of sexual harassment, and that no one close to him should contest the WFI elections, his camp was technically in the right as neither of his next of kin — son Prateek or son-in-law Vishal Singh, both involved in the sport — were in the fray. 

Sanjay Singh, an erstwhile member of the working committee under Brij Bhushan and vice-president of the UP Wrestling Association, was hence the chosen one, and no provision of law could have really disqualified an individual from contesting an election for being ‘close’ to an individual. So while the chargesheet filed by Delhi Police on charges of sexual harassment prevented Brij Bhushan from being party to the elections, it was not enough to stop Sanjay Singh from going ahead.

The overwhelming margin of Singh's victory (40-7 votes) against Anita Sheoran, a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist and the other presidential candidate, reflected the kind of clout Brij Bhushan still enjoys in wrestling officialdom across the country. The brazen arrogance that was on display during the celebrations at his residence also makes it a farcial affair. 

It’s a big blow for the player power as things are back to square one.    

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