Sanjay Singh, a supporter of former WFI chairman Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, has been chosen as the Wrestling Federation of India’s new president. On Thursday, December 21, the Wrestling Federation of India elections took place following multiple postponements earlier in the year. In New Delhi, the polling took place earlier in the day, and the counting got underway shortly after.
The election for the top posts in the Wrestling Federation of India also paves the way for the global wrestling body, United World Wrestling, to lift the suspension it had placed on the WFI. The UWW had suspended WFI for failing to conduct elections with a deadline that they had set in August and India wrestlers competed as neutral athletes in global events over the last few months.
The elections were held for 15 posts, including the president, treasurer, secretary-general, and senior vice-president, in the capital city. The two-way race for the presidential post of the Wrestling Federation of India was between former Commonwealth Games Gold medallist Anita Sheoran and Sanjay Singh, the vice-president of Uttar Pradesh Wrestling Federation.
Anita Sheoran, who is from Haryana and contested from Odisha, was bidding to become the first female president of the national wrestling body. She had the backing of the star wrestlers, including Sakshi Malik, Bajrang Punia, and Vinesh Phogat, who protested against outgoing Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over allegations of sexual harassment and stalking of female wrestlers.
However, Sanjay Singh, a close aide of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, has pledged to revive the heyday of wrestling, a sport that has recently produced several Olympic medallists for India. Some, including Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, expressed their concerns over Sanjay Singh running in the polls at their earlier-in-the-month meeting with Anurag Thakur, the minister of sports.
On January 18, wrestlers gathered at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi to publicly voice their charges of sexual exploitation and intimidation by Singh. This marked the start of the much-discussed demonstrations. The athletes’ outcry was about more than simply getting justice for themselves; it was also about making the wrestling community a safer place for future competitors. They urged that Singh and his family members not participate in the federation and sought free and fair elections to the WFI. The wrestlers agreed to end the demonstrations in June after the Sports Ministry vowed to take action. The protests had persisted until then.