Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh's loyalist Sanjay Singh elected as new chief of Wrestling Federation of India
In a significant development for Indian wrestling, Sanjay Singh, supported by influential figure Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, emerged victorious in the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) election. Securing 40 votes, Singh's win marks a strategic shift in the leadership dynamics.
Sanjay Singh, backed by the influential Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, has emerged victorious in the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) election. With an impressive tally of 40 votes, Singh's victory signifies a pivotal transformation in the leadership landscape, bringing about strategic changes in the dynamics of the Wrestling Federation of India.
"It's a triumph for the thousands of wrestlers in the country who suffered in the past 7-8 months" said Sanjay Singh after winning the election.
After several postponements earlier this year, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) successfully conducted elections on Thursday, December 21, resulting in the election of Sanjay Singh as the new president. The voting took place in New Delhi, and the counting process promptly followed the conclusion of the voting.
This election not only signifies a change in leadership within the WFI but also holds broader implications for the global wrestling body, United World Wrestling (UWW). The election outcomes pave the way for the UWW to lift the suspension imposed on the WFI. The suspension was a consequence of the WFI's failure to meet the election deadline set by the UWW in August. Consequently, Indian wrestlers participated in global events as neutral athletes in recent months.
The elections covered 15 key positions, including president, treasurer, secretary-general, and senior vice-president, in the capital city. The closely contested presidential race featured former Commonwealth Games Gold medallist Anita Sheoran and Sanjay Singh, the vice-president of Uttar Pradesh Wrestling Federation. Anita Sheoran, vying to become the first female president of the national wrestling body, garnered support from prominent wrestlers such as Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, and Vinesh Phogat. Their backing was rooted in protest against outgoing president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, accusing him of sexual harassment and stalking of female wrestlers.
In contrast, Sanjay Singh, a close aide to Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, secured victory and pledged to restore the former glory of Indian wrestling, which has seen multiple Olympic medalists in recent times. However, Singh's candidacy faced reservations from athletes like Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, who expressed their concerns during a meeting with Sports Minister Anurag Thakur earlier in the month.
The protests against Sanjay Singh commenced on January 18th, when wrestlers gathered at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, publicly airing allegations of sexual exploitation and intimidation against Singh. The athletes sought justice and a safer environment for fellow wrestlers, demanding transparent elections for the WFI and insisting on the exclusion of Singh and his family members from the federation. The protests continued until June, concluding after assurances of action by the Sports Ministry.