Birj Bhushan loyalist Sanjay Singh becomes new Wrestling Federation of India president

Sanjay Singh on Thursday became the new president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) with his panel comfortably winning most of the posts in the delayed polls as outgoing chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh gained indirect control over the sports body.

Sanjay, who is a Brij Bhushan loyalist and U.P. Wrestling Association vice president, secured 40 votes as against seven that his rival Anita Sheoran got.

RSS-affiliate Sanjay hails from Varanasi and is a very close associate of Brij Bhushan. Given the tremendous interest the outgoing chief has in the sport, it is expected that Sanjay will consult him in policy decisions.

“It’s triumph for thousands of wrestlers in the country who suffered in the past 7-8 months,” Sanjay Singh told reporters after his huge win.

Also read: New judge to hear sexual harassment case against former WFI chief

The panel of Sheoran, a CWG gold medallist, though managed to win the key post of secretary general as Prem Chand Lochab, a former RSPB secretary, beat Darshan Lal 27-19.

Devender Singh Kadian, who runs a chain of food joints on National Highways and is considered to be close to protesting wrestlers, claimed the senior vice president’s post, beating I.D. Nanavati 32-15.

The Brij Bhushan camp won 13 of the 15 posts. It swept all the four posts of vice presidents with Delhi’s Jai Prakash (37), West Bengal’s Asit Kumar Saha (42), Punjab’s Kartar Singh (44) and Manipur’s N. Phoni (38) winning the elections.

The new Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mohan Yadav, who did not turn up for the polls, got only five votes in the vice president election.

Uttarakhand’s Satyapal Singh Deshwal, who is also from Brij Bhushan camp, is the new treasurer. He beat Jammu and Kashmir’s Dushyant Sharma 34-12.

All five executive committee members were also from the outgoing chief’s camp.

“The wrestlers who have been protesting over the last one year should leave the path and concentrate on their sport. That will only give them success and fame,” two-time Asian games champion Kartar Singh said.

“The sport has suffered a lot in the last one year due to the protest by wrestlers and no national competition at any level has taken place depriving subjuniors, juniors and seniors of jobs, promotions etc,” he added.

The outcome of the polls would give top wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik the feeling that their protest against Brij Bhushan has come to naught as they could not get the fraternity behind them despite aggressively pushing for a change of guard. A close associate of the BJP MP is now at the helm.

They had accused Brij Bhushan of sexually harassing women wrestlers, including juniors, and managed to mobilise huge support from different sections of society but the protest fizzled out the day they planned a march towards new Parliament building on May 28 when Delhi police removed all the protesters from Jantar Mantar for rioting.

The wrestlers had officially called off their protest on June 7 when Sports Minister Anurag Thakur assured them that none of the family members or close associates of Brij Bhushan will be allowed to enter the WFI election fray.

Stage set for lifting UWW ban on WFI

The election of the new executive council will also pave the way for lifting the United World Wrestling (UWW) ban on WFI. The world governing body of the game had banned WFI for not conducting election on time, forcing Indian wrestlers to compete as neutral athletes at the 2023 World Championships.

The election process was set in motion in July but was delayed because of court cases. The Supreme Court recently set aside the stay imposed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, paving the way for the process to elect the new WFI governing body.

From wrestlers’ protest to WFI elections: a timeline

The following is the timeline of the chain of events up till the election of the Wrestling Federation of India on Thursday:

January 18: Wrestlers begin protest at Jantar Mantar, accuse WFI chief Brij Bhushan Singh Sharan of sexual exploitation and intimidation, demand his resignation and dissolution of the federation.

January 19: CWG champion wrestler and BJP member Babita Phogat meets wrestlers, says she will speak to the government.

January 20: Wrestlers write a complaint letter to Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president PT Usha, demand the formation of an inquiry committee to probe the allegations and appointment of a new committee to run WFI in consultation with the wrestlers.

IOA forms a seven-member committee, including M C Mary Kom and Yogeshwar Dutt, to probe the allegations of sexual harassment.

January 21: Wrestlers call off protest after meeting Thakur.

Sports Minister says an Oversight Committee will be formed to probe the allegations and Brij Bhushan will step aside till the probe is completed.

WFI denies allegations of sexual harassment of women wrestlers by its president and coaches.

January 21: Sports Ministry asks WFI to suspend all ongoing activities with immediate effect and schedule emergency AGM meeting of WFI.

Assistant secretary of WFI Vinod Tomar suspended.

January 23: Formation of 5-member Oversight Committee (OC), led by Mary Kom, to look into the allegations *OC given 4 weeks to complete probe.

January 24: Protesting wrestlers express disappointment that they were not consulted by the government on the choice of the committee members.

February 23: OC’s tenure extended by two weeks.

April 16: WFI announces election on May 7 after the OC’s report is submitted to the Sports Ministry. Report not made public.

April 23: Wrestlers return to Jantar Mantar, say 7 female wrestlers, including a minor, have filed a sexual harassment complaint against Brij Bhushan at the CP police station. Claim police has not yet registered an FIR.

Wrestlers ask Sports Ministry to make OC’s findings public.

April 24: Sports Ministry stalls May 7 elections. Asks IOA to constitute an ad-hoc committee to conduct the polls within 45 days of its formation and also manage the sports body.

April 25: Wrestlers move Supreme Court seeking registration of FIR against Brij Bhushan.

SC issues notice to Delhi police.

April 27: Formation of 3-member panel by IOA.

P.T. Usha says protesting wrestlers should have shown some discipline and, instead of taking to the streets, should have approached the IOA.

May 3: Scuffle breaks out between the wrestlers and the Delhi Police, leading to head injuries to a couple of protesters.

Protesters accuse “drunk officials of manhandling” them and “misbehaving” with the female wrestlers. The altercation led to detention while some wrestlers also sustained injuries.

May 4: SC closes proceedings on a plea by 3 women wrestlers, who’ve levelled sexual harassment allegations Brij Bhushan, after noting that FIRs have been registered and the 7 complainants have been provided adequate security.

May 5: Delhi police record statements of wrestlers, who have filed complaints of sexual harassment against Brij Bhushan.

May 10: Wrestlers challenge Brij Bhushan to take NARCO test.

May 11: Police records Brij Bhushan’s statement.

May 28: Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, along with other protesters, booked for rioting and obstructing public servant in discharge of duty, while they attempt to march towards the new Parliament, which is being inaugurated by PM. May 30: International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United World Wrestling (UWW) condemn the police’s handling and detention of the Indian wrestlers, calling it “very disturbing.” Wrestlers arrive in Haridwar to immerse medals.

June 8: Father of the minor wrestler tells PTI that they deliberately filed a false police complaint of sexual harassment against WFI chief because they wanted to get back at him.

June 7: Protest halted after Thakur assures them that the police investigation against Brij Bhushan would be concluded and the pending WFI elections would be conducted by June 30.

June 12: IOA appoints former J&K High Court Chief Justice Mahesh Mittal Kumar as returning officer.

June 13: WFI election scheduled for July 6.

June 15: Delhi Police files charge sheet before court.

June 19: IOA ad-hoc panel calls five disaffiliated state wrestling units for hearing on June 21.

June 21: The IOA ad-hoc panel reschedules WFI elections to July 11 after five disaffiliated State bodies, seeking voting rights for the polls, present their cases in a hearing.

June 22: The IOA ad-hoc panel reduces Asian Games and World Championship selection to a one-bout competition for six protesting wrestlers.

June 23: Several coaches, parents of wrestlers demand withdrawal of exemption given to six wrestlers.

June 25: The Gauhati High Court stays WFI elections, scheduled for July 11, on a petition filed by the Assam Wrestling Association.

July 18: Delhi court grants interim bail to Brij Bhushan Singh.

Bajrang and Vinesh get direct entries into the Asian Games.

July 19: Young wrestlers hit Hisar streets to protest against “unfair trial exemption” for Bajrang and Vinesh *WFI election scheduled for August 7.

July 20: Many junior wrestlers, their parents and coaches reach IOA headquarters , demand withdrawal of exemption granted to Vinesh and Bajrang.

WFI election rescheduled for August 12.

August 11: Punjab and Haryana High Court stay WFI elections scheduled for August 12, following a petition filed by the Haryana Wrestling Association.

August 23: Wresting world governing body UWW suspends WFI for not conducting its elections on time.

December 5: WFI elections scheduled on December 21.

December 21: Sanjay Singh, a Brij Bhushan loyalist, elected new WFI chief with his panel comfortably winning most of the posts.

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