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'Still Controlled by Former Office-Bearers': Why Sports Ministry Suspended WFI

The ministry said that the new administration still appears to be controlled by the former officials.

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Wrestling
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In a major development, the Sports Ministry on Sunday, 24 December, suspended the newly elected Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), citing a disregard for the existing rules and regulations.

Sanjay Singh was elected as the new president of the WFI to replace ousted chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh by a 40-7 margin of votes on 21 December.

However, the ministry, in a press release, said that the new administration still appears to be controlled by former officials, which led to the suspension. "Newly elected body appears to be in complete control of former office bearers in complete disregard to the Sports Code [sic]," the ministry said.

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"The business of the Federation is being run from the premises controlled by former office bearers. Which is also alleged premises wherein sexual harassment of the players have been alleged and present the court is hearing the matter [sic]," it further said.

Responding to the order, Sanjay Singh said as per news agency ANI: "I've not received any letter yet. First, let me see the letter, only then I will comment. I heard that some activity has been stopped."

Meanwhile, the Union Sports Ministry is said to have asked the Indian Olympic Association to create an ad-hoc committee to manage the affairs of the WFI, news agency ANI reported, quoting ministry sources.

Why the Suspension?

The ministry also cited Sanjay Singh's declaration on 21 December that the WFI would hold the U-15 and U-20 nationals by the end of the year – a move that does not follow the directives which state that at least a 15-day notice is required so that the wrestlers can prepare for the tournament.

"Such decisions (holding the nationals) are to be taken by Executive Committee, before which agendas are required to be placed for consideration. As per Article XI of the WFI constitution under the Heading 'Notices and Quorum for Meetings', minimum notice period for EC meeting is 15 clear days and quorum is of 1/3rd of representatives. Even for Emergency EC meeting, minimum notice period is 7 clear days with quorum requirement of 1/3rd of representatives [sic]," the ministry said in its press release.

The ministry further stated that the "decisions made by the newly elected executive body of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) demonstrate a blatant disregard for the established legal and procedural norms, violating both the WFI's constitutional provisions and the National Sports Development Code [sic]."

"The actions smack of complete arbitrariness on part of the President, which is against the settled principles of good governance and devoid of transparency and due process. Adherence to governance norms is vital for ensuring fair play, transparency and accountability. There are crucial to built trust among athletes, stakeholders, and the public [sic]."
Statement by Sports Ministry
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'I Have Nothing To Do With Wrestling, Focusing on Lok Sabha Polls': Brij Bhushan Singh

Meanwhile, former WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said that he has nothing to do with wrestling anymore and is rather focusing on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

"WFI elections were held on SC directions. Further, Sanjay Singh is not my relative. To resume the sports activities and not waste a year of young wrestlers, it was decided to conduct the games in Nandini Nagar. Now, I do not have anything to do with wrestling and have to look into the Lok Sabha polls that are approaching. Whatever decision has to be taken will be taken by the new federation," he said while addressing the press.

He further said that time would tell whether he has done justice to the WFI or not.

"I have worked 12 years for the wrestlers. Now decisions and talks with the government will be done by the elected people of the federation," he added.

Why Is This Important?

India's top wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, and Sakshi Malik had taken to the streets of Delhi in January this year to shed light on the cases of sexual harassment of female wrestlers at the hands of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Since then, multiple FIRs have been filed against the former WFI chief, with the case currently ongoing in the Rouse Avenue Court.

Following the protests, Brij Bhushan was removed from the post of the WFI president in March, even as he had also reached the end of his tenure, according to the Indian Sports Code.

The wrestlers had met with Home Minister Amit Shah and Sports Minister Anurag Thakur and they claimed that they had been given assurances that no close aide or family member of Brij Bhushan would be allowed to contest the WFI elections.

While his son and son-in-law did not contest, Sanjay Singh has gone on record various times to say that Brij Bhushan is like an "elder brother" to him and the two have known each since they were young.
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After he was elected the WFI chief on 21 December, Sanjay Singh celebrated the win at Brij Bhushan's official residence in New Delhi, where the BJP MP told the media, "Dabdaba toh hai, dabdaba rahega."

On the same day, Sakshi Malik, the country's first female wrestler to win an Olympic, announced her decision to quit the sport "if such a close associate of Brij Bhushan's is allowed to run the WFI." Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia also returned his Padma Shri award in protest against the new elected body, leaving the medal in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's residence on 22 December.

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