Delayed wrestling federation polls to be held on Dec 21
The one-day process is expected to end months-long delay after protests by top wrestlers over alleged sexual harassment by Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh
After a long delay due to court injunctions, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) election is finally scheduled to be held on December 21.
Returning officer Justice (retd) MM Kumar on Saturday issued a fresh notification drawing up a revised schedule. According to it, the polling (during the WFI special general body meeting), counting and declaration of results will all be done in a single day. The election was originally scheduled on August 12. The nomination process was completed and the final list of candidates drawn up when the Punjab and Haryana high court stayed the election on a writ petition by the de-recognised Haryana federation.
The Supreme Court vacated the stay on November 28, paving the way for the process to resume. The court directed the returning officer to issue a revised election programme. The apex court order though stipulates that the results will be subject to the outcome of the plea pending before the high court.
“The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India vide its order dated 28.11.2023 has vacated the stay orders and therefore the remaining steps like polling, etc. will now recommence on 21.12.2023 as per the following revised schedule,” said the notification, adding that as per WFI constitution 10 days’ notice has been given.
Outgoing WFI president and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has been accused by six women wrestlers of sexual harassment and is facing trial in a Delhi lower court, still enjoys huge clout within the federation having governed WFI for 12 years. His supporters have filed nominations for all 15 posts. Singh’s close associate Sanjay Kumar Singh of Uttar Pradesh is standing for the president’s post.
A second group which has the support of wrestlers who protested against Singh is also in the fray for the top posts. Former wrestler and 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Anita Sheoran, who is with the Haryana Police official and is a witness in the sexual harassment case, is standing against Sanjay Singh. Railways Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) secretary Prem Chand Lochab – a key mediator between the protesting wrestlers and the government – is in the fray for the secretary general’s post, while former wrestler and senior superintendent with the Jammu and Kashmir Police, Dushyant Sharma, has pitched himself for the treasurer’s post.
While Singh’s faction enjoys majority support, the possibility of a compromise on some of the key posts cannot be ruled out, according to people aware of the developments.
On Friday, the ad-hoc committee announced that the senior nationals will be hosted by RSPB in Jaipur from January 2-5. It will be the first domestic event to be organised after a gap of nine months.
The elections are important for the world body – United World Wrestling (UWW) -- to remove its suspension of WFI. Indian wrestlers currently can’t compete under the India flag because of the suspension. They took part as neutral athletes at the September world championships in Serbia. Antim Panghal won bronze and India’s first quota for the Paris Olympics.
The wrestling fraternity will hope the elections to go off smoothly as it has already faced several delays due to the barred state associations petitioning the courts.
Last week, the Haryana Amateur Wrestling Association (HAWA) president Rohtas Singh appealed to the ad-hoc committee to go through the entire election process again, alleging that the final list of the electoral college and candidates flouted the government’s National Sports Code. He said some states need to be heard again with a “fresh schedule of election”.