A close aide of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and a witness against the BJP MP in the sexual harassment case will go head to head in the battle to succeed him as the president of the Wrestling Federation of India.
Sanjay Singh, a joint secretary in the previous WFI administration that was headed by Brij Bhushan, and former Commonwealth Games champion Anita Sheoran were the only two names left in the fray for the top job as the deadline for the candidates to withdraw their nominations for the WFI elections ended on Saturday. The elections are due to be held on August 12.
Sanjay has been handpicked by Brij Bhushan and leads the panel of candidates that has the blessings of the former WFI president, who is facing sexual harassment charges. Meanwhile, Anita, it is learnt, has the backing of the three wrestlers who led the protests against Brij Bhushan – Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik.
After the government assuring the wrestlers in June that their inputs will be taken in deciding who occupies key posts in the new WFI executive committee, it was believed that a unanimous candidate would be nominated in each category, thus doing away with the need of having actual elections.
However, after holding a meeting with state units last week, a defiant Brij Bhushan has not withdrawn any of his candidates and on August 12, 50 members representing 25 state units will cast their votes to elect the next set of office-bearers.
And unless a dramatic twist takes place in the next seven days, Brij Bhushan’s panel will be a frontrunner to sweep all key positions, including president, general secretary, treasurer and senior vice-president. A former office-bearer told The Indian Express that they have the support of at least 20 out of the 25 state units.
While Sanjay and Anita will face-off for the president’s post, Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) secretary Prem Chand Lochab, who is with Sheoran’s panel will be up against Chandigarh’s Darshan Lal to become the next general secretary.
Uttarakhand’s Satyapal Singh Deshwal, backed by Brij Bhushan, will be challenged by former wrestler Dushyant Sharma from J&K for treasurer’s position while veteran sports administrator from Gujarat, ID Nanavati, will contest for the post of senior vice president against Devendra Kadian of Haryana.
Brij Bhushan, who served as the WFI president for 12 years, is not eligible to continue any longer as per the National Sport’s Code while the government has barred his family members from contesting.