Sakshi Malik quits wrestling: Protesting wrestlers won’t face vendetta politics says BJP MP Brij Bhushan

Brij Bhushan, who is facing sexual harassment charges from women wrestlers, assured that the new dispensation will work impartially.


Published Dec 22, 2023 | 11:00 AMUpdatedDec 22, 2023 | 11:00 AM

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. (Twitter)

By Amanpreet Singh

On the day India’s Olympic medal winner Sakshi Malik quit from wrestling in protest, BJP MP and outgoing WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh assured there won’t be vendetta politics against protesting wrestlers.

“The protesting wrestlers will not face any sort of vendetta politics and they will get the required support from the new federation,” outgoing Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said on Thursday, 21 December, after the panel backed by him emerged victorious in the keenly-followed elections.

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.

Also Read: Sakshi Malik quits wrestling after Brij Bhushan loyalist becomes WFI chief

‘Wrestlers will get support from WFI’

“All wresters will get support from the WFI. There will be no partiality. A lot of wrestlers, new and established ones, had sat in a 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,” he said.

When asked if he will continue to call the shots in the day-to-day running of the federation, Brij Bhushan said that 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.

Policy changes likely 

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 posts even as the new secretary-general and senior vice-president emerged from the rival camp, led by Commonwealth Games 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.

Also Read: Delhi Police files charge sheet against WFI’s Brij Bhushan

Wrestlers’ accusations against Bhushan

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 that the protesting wrestlers were exposed as time passed by.

“When the protest started on 18 January, 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 proof, they got exposed gradually,” he said.

Bhushan’s panel win mandate

When 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,” he said.

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

“My suggestion is that before 31 December, 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.

Also Read: Karnataka Wrestling Association drop Brij Bhushan as Bengaluru Kambala guest

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