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I quit wrestling... Sakshi Malik on live TV after Brij Bhushan-aide Sanjay Singh elected WFI chief (WATCH)

Sakshi Malik announced her retirement from wrestling on Thursday, adding that she won't compete under the presidency of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh loyalist, Sanjay Singh.

I quit wrestling... Sakshee Malikkh on live TV after Brij Bhushan-aide Sanjay Singh elected WFI president snt
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First Published Dec 21, 2023, 5:02 PM IST

Sakshi Malik, the bronze medallist from the Rio Olympics, on Thursday declared her shock retirement from wrestling in protest against Sanjay Singh, a loyalist of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, winning the top position in the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) election. Sanjay, closely associated with the outgoing WFI chief Brij Bhushan, assumed the role of the new WFI president as his panel secured victory in 13 out of the 15 posts in the elections held on Thursday.

"We fought from our heart but if a man like Brij Bhushan, his business partner and a close aide is elected as the president of WFI, I quit wrestling," said a teary-eyed Sakshi, and kept her shoes on the table in a dramatic announcement.

"We wanted a female president but that did not happen," the 31-year-old, who is also a CWG gold medallist, added.

Before the elections, Olympic medal-winning wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Sakshi consistently urged Sports Minister Anurag Thakur to prevent anyone affiliated with Brij Bhushan from participating in the WFI polls. As a result, neither Brij Bhushan's son Prateek nor son-in-law Vishal Singh chose to contest in the elections.

Following the election results, Bajrang and Vinesh Phogat, who spoke to the media, did not clarify whether they intend to retire from the sport.

"It's unfortunate that government did not stand by its word that no Brij Bhushan loyalist will contest WFI election," Bajrang said.

"Upcoming women wrestlers will also face exploitation," Vinesh added.

Sanjay Singh secured victory as the newly elected president of the WFI, as his panel clinched a majority of the positions in the postponed polls. Belonging to the Brij Bhushan faction and serving as the vice president of the UP Wrestling Association, Singh garnered 40 votes, while his opponent, Anita Sheoran, managed only seven votes. The outcome was widely anticipated, given that the opposing faction lacked the requisite numbers for a competitive contest.

Hailing from Varanasi, Singh is recognized as a close ally of Brij Bhushan, the former chief of WFI, whose tenure concluded amidst accusations of sexual harassment.

“Jinko kushti karni hai woh kushti karein. Jinko rajneeti karni hain woh rajneeti karein. (Wrestlers who want to compete, they should wrestle. Those who want to do politics, should do politics)” Singh says after sweeping the election.

“It’s triumph for thousands of wrestlers in the country who suffered in the past seven-eight months,” Singh said.

Nevertheless, Sheoran's panel experienced a partial victory by securing the crucial position of secretary-general. Prem Chand Lochab, a former secretary of RSPB (Railway Sports Promotion Board), emerged victorious by defeating Darshan Lal with a margin of 27-19.

Devender Singh Kadian, who owns a chain of food outlets along national highways and is closely associated with the protesting wrestlers, secured the position of senior vice president by defeating I D Nanavati with a margin of 32-15.

In a clean sweep, the Brij Bhushan camp dominated all four vice president positions, with Jai Prakash from Delhi (37 votes), Asit Kumar Saha from West Bengal (42 votes), Kartar Singh from Punjab (44 votes), and N Phoni from Manipur (38 votes) emerging victorious. Despite the absence of the new Madhya Pradesh chief minister Mohan Yadav in the polls, he received only five votes in the election for the vice president's post.

Satyapal Singh Deshwal from Uttarakhand, affiliated with the Brij Bhushan camp, emerged as the new treasurer by defeating Dushyant Sharma from Jammu and Kashmir with a margin of 34-12. Notably, all five members of the executive committee also belong to the outgoing chief's camp.

Despite the wrestlers' fervent calls for change and their allegations of sexual harassment against Brij Bhushan, the election results indicate minimal anticipated transformation in Indian wrestling. The protesting wrestlers officially concluded their demonstration on June 7, following assurances from Sports Minister Anurag Thakur that family members or close associates of Brij Bhushan would be barred from entering the WFI election process.

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