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Wrestling Federation of India election a fixed match

Those opposing Singh panel also accommodated; Bajrang says career ‘doomed’

Wrestling Federation of India election a fixed match

Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik during a press conference. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal



Tribune News Service

Vinayak Padmadeo

New Delhi, December 21

In Indian wrestling the term ‘noora kushti’ is a way to explain if a bout is fixed. The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) election had the same feel. The opposing groups — led by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh loyalist Sanjay Singh and Anita Sheoran — did not show any signs of friction.

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and new president Sanjay Singh. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

There was no jostling for votes, not even a hint of unrest among the 47 voters who came to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) house for the election. Everything was calm, and there lied the biggest clue that the parties had come to an understanding. Since the day the Supreme Court vacated the stay on the election, there had been murmurs of backchannel parleys — a few seats were to be sacrificed to pacify the protesting wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat.

While Sanjay Singh won the top post by an overwhelming margin of 40-7 votes, the results of two other posts showed that it was indeed a fixed match. Prem Chand Lochab and Devinder Kadian were elected as secretary general and senior vice-president, respectively, of the WFI’s new executive body.

A source told The Tribune that outgoing president Brij Bhushan was asked to accommodate both Lochab and Kadian, who are BJP party members in Haryana. And when Brij Bhushan publicly thanked the Union Government for paving the way for today’s election, there was no doubt in anyone’s minds that the government engineered this fix.

“I want to thank the government,” a heavily garlanded Brij Bhushan told the media. “It was the government that cleared the way for today as they pleaded to restart the election process with the Supreme Court. The Sports Ministry also opposed the stay by the Punjab & Haryana High Court and today I want to congratulate the government, the ministry that free and fair elections could be held today,” he added.

Two-time Asian Games gold medallist Kartar Singh was elected as a vice-president after getting 44 votes, the highest in the elections.

Other than Sheoran, who could only tally seven votes, the other losers in today’s elections were the protesting wrestlers, who had made it a personal fight to see that none of the Brij Bhushan loyalists got elected into the new body. The results did not sit well with them as they questioned the government for failing to act on their assurances.

“The Sports Minister (Anurag Thakur) said on camera in January that neither Brij Bhushan nor his people will be part of the new body,” Bajrang said. “But results unfortunately show that it has not been done. I do not feel that we will get justice for the girls as the system worked to break the unity of the complainants. It is still happening,” he added.

“His (Brij Bhushan) man has won the WFI elections. After what happened today, I think he will get a favourable verdict from the court as well. I still believe in the courts. We fought and this fight has to be continued for the next two generations. We fought with all our might but whatever assurances the government gave to us, they did not fulfill. It is sad that we need to fight to get justice,” he added.

Threat, allegations

Bajrang also raised the spectre that those who joined the protests may perish in accidents or face allegations to tarnish their image.

“Those who joined us, coaches and wrestlers, our careers are doomed now. We may face an incident like a car accident or wild allegations. Wait and watch, it will start to happen now. We have seen how powerful he is. We do not know whether we will get justice,” Bajrang said.

“We fought but we lost today but someone needs to continue this fight. Vinesh just said that despite Bhagat Singh’s sacrifice it took us a number of years to get independence. We do not know when we will get independence in wrestling. We are doubtful that we will be allowed to continue in wrestling because all his people have been elected today,” he added.

About The Author

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