Rahul Gandhi meets Bajrang Punia amid row over Brij Bhushan loyalist Sanjay Singh’s election as WFI chief

Punia returned his Padma Shri on 22 December in protest over Sanjay's election as president in the WFI polls last week.


Published Dec 27, 2023 | 2:36 PMUpdatedDec 27, 2023 | 2:36 PM

Rahul Gandhi with Bajrang Punia

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday, 27 December, met Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia and other wrestlers at Jhajjar in Haryana amid a row over the election of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh loyalist Sanjay Singh as Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president.

Bajrang returned his Padma Shri on Friday, 22 December, in protest over Sanjay’s election as president in the WFI polls last week.

Gandhi, a former Congress president, met and interacted with the wrestlers at the Virendra Akhada where Bajrang began his journey in the sport.

“He (Rahul Gandhi) came to see our routine (training). He did wrestling and exercise with me. He came to see what is the day-to-day life of a wrestler,” Bajrang told reporters.

The meeting came a day after World Championship medallist Vinesh Phogat returned her Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award to the government in protest against Sanjay’s election.

Related: Bajrang Punia returns Padma Shri in protest over WFI chief poll

Newly-elected panel suspended

On Thursday, 21 December, Sanjay was elected as the WFI president as the panel led by the close aide of Brij Bhushan won 13 of the 15 posts.

The wrestlers had demanded that no close associate of Brij Bhushan should enter the WFI administration.

Following the election, Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik announced that she would quit the sport.

However, the Sports Ministry later suspended the newly-elected panel for not following the provisions of its own constitution while taking decisions and also asked the IOA to constitute an ad-hoc panel to manage the affairs of the sports body.

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