WFI row: Rahul Gandhi trolled for meeting Bajrang Punia; wrestling and exercising along with Olympian
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's meeting with Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia comes amid several wrestlers returning their awards to protest the election of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh's loyalist Sanjay Singh's election as WFI chief.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi paid a visit to Virender Arya Akhara in the Jhajjar district of Haryana on Wednesday morning, where he engaged with wrestlers, including Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia. This visit coincides with a recent controversy surrounding the Wrestling Foundation of India (WFI). The Ministry of Sports suspended the WFI following an announcement by the newly elected WFI president, Sanjay Singh, regarding the hosting of the U-15 and U-20 nationals later this year.
The controversy stems from allegations of sexual harassment against former WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Wrestlers who made these accusations expressed dissatisfaction with the election of Sanjay Singh, given his close association with Brij Bhushan. In response to the situation, Sakshi Malik declared her retirement from wrestling, Bajrang Punia returned his Padma Shri, and Vinesh Phogat declared her intention to return her Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award in protest.
Bajrang Punia mentioned that Rahul Gandhi joined him in a workout session, actively participating and even attempting some wrestling moves alongside the Olympian. "He came to see our routine, and tried hands on wrestling and workout regime," Bajrang said adding that Rahul Gandhi shot a video at the akara for his YouTube channel.
Rahul Gandhi reached the akhara at 6.15 am, coach Virendra Arya told news agency ANI. They were not aware of the Congress leader's visit. "He told us about his sport and asked us about wrestling. He had roti and saag with us," another wrestler added.
Rahul Gandhi's visit comes days after his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra went to Rio Games bronze medallist Sakshi Malik's residence to visit her after she announced her exit from wrestling. Following his visit, the Congress leader was heavily trolled on X, formerly Twitter. Here's a look at how users reacted:
Meanwhile, BJP MP Brij Bhushan distanced himself from the ongoing WFI controversy, asserting that upon Sanjay Singh's election as the federation's chief, he retired from wrestling. Clarifying that Sanjay Singh is a close acquaintance but not a relative, Brij Bhushan emphasized that any developments concerning the federation are now a matter between the federation and the government. Brij Bhushan's current priority is directed towards the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.