Nadda meets Brij Bhushan Singh as BJP swings into action to contain fallout of wrestlers’ protest


PTI, Dec 24, 2023, 7:16 PM IST

Source: PTI / File

New Delhi: BJP chief J P Nadda on Sunday summoned party MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for a meeting in a bid to defuse the crisis that erupted as some leading wrestlers restarted their protest after people close to Singh took control of the Wrestling Federation of India.

It was only after the nudge from the party leadership that Singh, who has long run the WFI like a pocket borough, announced that he no longer has anything to do with the Federation, sources said.

”I am now retired. I have a lot of other work. I have to oversee elections (Lok Sabha) too,” Singh, an eastern UP strongman, told reporters after the meeting with Nadda following the announcement of the suspension of WFI by the Sports Ministry for alleged violation of procedures.

Asked what transpired in the meeting, Singh merely said that Nadda is his leader and claimed that there was no conversation between them on the wrestling row.

The five-term Lok Sabha MP, who is generally combative with a visible swagger, on Sunday appeared self-restraint in his replies to questions on the wrestling issue, maintaining that he is done with the field.

Asked if he will fight the 2024 Lok Sabha polls from Kaisarganj again, he said it will be his priority but the decision belongs to the party.

His boast about having ”dabdaba” (domination) which he had asserted will continue after his confidant Sanjay Singh won the WFI president polls was also gone and some posters carrying the statement were brought down.

”I realised that some of these posters smacked of arrogance,” Singh conceded.

With some of the best-known wrestlers, almost all of them from Haryana and belonging to the Jat community, leading the protest against his sway in the WFI, the BJP is wary of opposition from the farming community, which is concentrated in Haryana, western UP and Rajasthan, in the election period.

Wrestlers like Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik and World Championship medallist Vinesh Phogat have levelled allegations of sexual harassment against Brij Bhushan and the case is being heard in the Delhi High Court. The former WFI chief has denied the allegations against him and claimed that he was being targeted under a conspiracy by Congress leaders.

Singh’s brusque manners are seen by many in the party as an avoidable cause of confrontation, and his announcement may help calm the waters, party sources said.

The Thakur leader from eastern Uttar Pradesh is, however, an influential figure in several constituencies and enjoys considerable support.

The Sports Ministry on Sunday suspended the WFI till further orders after the newly-elected body made a ”hasty announcement” of organising the U-15 and U-20 nationals ”without following due procedure and not giving sufficient notice to wrestlers” for preparations.

The ministry also said the new body was working under the ”complete control of former (WFI) office-bearers”, which was not in conformity with the National Sports Code.

Opposition leaders, however, said the government’s decision was not enough to give justice to protesting wrestlers and questioned why a loyalist of the former WFI president was allowed to contest the election to the sports body in the first place.

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