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Now, I do not have anything to do with wrestling: Brij Bhushan

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the erstwhile president of now-suspended Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), announced his ‘retirement’ from wrestling on a day that saw sports ministry swinging into action and suspending the newly-elected Executive Committee (EC) of WFI. The federation’s daily operations will now be handled by an ad-hoc committee to be formed by Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh(Shrikant Singh)

Sports ministry’s actions come just three days after Brij Bhushan-backed Sanjay Singh panel won the WFI polls, taking 13 of the 15 seats on offer. The remaining two positions, that of vice president and secretary general, went to candidates propped up by the protesting wrestlers as part of the compromise formula agreed upon by both parties and mediated by the ministry. Hours after assuming presidency, Sanjay held a meeting with the office bearers in which the new secretary general, Prem Chand Lochab, was not invited. The federation then announced the dates and venue for under-15 and under-20 Nationals that were put off since March.

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Noting WFI’s unilateral call and the violation of Article XI and Article X (d) of its constitution, the ministry concluded that the “newly elected body appears to be in complete control of former office bearers in complete disregard to the Sports Code while suspending the EC.

It has been learned that Brij Bhushan, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Uttar Pradesh’s Kaiserganj constituency, sought an appointment from Home Minister Amit Shah but couldn’t secure it. He then met BJP president JP Nadda and soon distanced himself from the WFI controversy.

“WFI elections were held on Supreme Court’s directions. Further, Sanjay Singh is not my relative. I come from Kshatriya clan and he is a Bhumihar, meaning we can’t be relatives. The meeting of WFI office bearers was conducted in haste to ensure young wrestlers do not end up losing a year. We wanted to conduct age-group Nationals before December 31 precisely for this reason,” he said.

“The venue of Nandini Nagar (in Gonda) was chosen after consulting all state units. We have verbal and written go-ahead from all 25 state units for the same. Now, I do not have anything to do with wrestling,” the 66-year-old, who is facing charges of sexual harassment from six female wrestlers, said.

“I served wrestling for 12 years, good or bad only time will tell. I have taken retirement from wrestling. I am breaking my relationship with the sport. Now whatever decision has to be taken, whether to liaise with he government or handling the legal processes, those decisions will be taken by the elected members. The Lok Sabha elections are round the corner and I have to move ahead,” Brij Bhushan added.

However, sports ministry officials as well as within WFI claim that the government was triggered by bad optics that Brij Bhushan’s statements generated. “I agree the celebrations could’ve been muted. Some of the statements pertaining to his enduring influence over the federation were avoidable too. It certainly ruffled the government wrong way,” a WFI insider said.

“Sanjay Singh has already served three terms in WFI EC. Vice-presidents Kartar Singh and Asit Kumar Saha are over 70 years old. There is no woman representation in the new EC despite the sports code demanding 25 percent quota for women. All these factors should’ve been flagged by the Returning Officer. This would still have gone under the radar had Brij Bhushan’s supporters not indulged in such wild celebrations,” the official added.

Sanjay Singh, whose reign as WFI president lasted just three days, also clarified that he had no familial ties with Brij Bhushan and demanded the federation be allowed to run.

“When the new federation was formed, he (Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh) was honourably sent off and today he told that he has retired from wrestling. Sakshi Malik has also retired…both of them have retired, so now everyone should let the federation run peacefully,” Sanjay said.

“As far as the allegations of me being Brij Bhushan’s relative goes, we are not related. He is a Kshatriya while I am a Bhumihar. I served as a WFI joint secretary under his presidency, so obviously we shared a good working relationship.”

“We are seeking time from the sports minister and request that the suspension be lifted. If the issue is not resolved through dialogue, we could explore legal options,” he added.

The wrestlers welcomed WFI’s suspension with Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik calling it a major landmark in their fight.

“It is a big step in our quest for justice. We were worried for the safety of junior female wrestlers, so the ministry’s order is a welcome development,” Malik, who announced her retirement from wrestling after Sanjay SIngh’s win in an emotionally-charged press conference, said.

Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia, who left his Padma Shri award at Kartavya Path on Friday, said he won’t tale back his award.

“I trust God, and I won’t take back my award till our sisters and daughters get justice,” the 29-year-old said on the social media platform X.

WFI’s operations will now be run by an ad-hoc committee which will be formed by the IOA.

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