WFI elections: Numbers favour Brij Bhushan despite sexual harassment allegations, FIR

Sidelined wrestling federation president may meet Home Minister before finalising nominations for various posts
FILE - Outgoing Wrestling Federation of India chief and Bharatiya Janata Party MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. (Photo | PTI)
FILE - Outgoing Wrestling Federation of India chief and Bharatiya Janata Party MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. (Photo | PTI)

CHENNAI: Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh might have numbers but they are not the only factor to predict the fate of the upcoming Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) election scheduled on August 12. Given the tricky situation, the sidelined WFI chief is in, these numbers, however, in all likelihood may help him wriggle out of the mess.

The same was on display on Sunday, the eve of the last date of submission of nominations for election to the returning officer Justice MM Kumar, retired chief justice of the J&K High Court, in person. The BJP member of parliament from Kaiserganj, Uttar Pradesh, held a meeting of his loyalists at a five-star hotel in New Delhi. Out of 25 affiliated state associations, representatives from 21 units attended the meeting.

Representatives from the newly-recognised Assam body, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha and Gujarat skipped the meeting. With two executive members from each association eligible to cast their votes, if the election happens, Brij Bhushan has 42 votes as of Sunday to make sure his candidates win even if he is not eligible to contest. The numbers can swell further as the president of the Gujarat association, ID Nanavati, who is abroad, is a staunch supporter of Brij Bhushan.        

Despite holding all the aces, Brij Bhushan and Co though didn't reveal their potential candidates as it is learnt that a compromise formula is being contemplated keeping all the stakeholders including the protesting wrestlers in view.

"Brij Bhushan may meet Home Minister Amit Shah in this regard. Shah is in Indore (Madhya Pradesh) today (Sunday) but is expected to return to the national capital at night. A final list of candidates can be prepared only after the meeting. So it's safe to say, the candidates for various posts can be known by midnight or Monday morning," one of the office-bearers from a state unit who attended the meeting, told this daily.

As the protesting wrestlers were assured by the home minister in the past and a few representatives from the government like Prem Chand Lochab (Gujarat), Railway Sports Promotion Board secretary and Devender Kadian (Assam), a hotelier and BJP leader from Haryana, were included in the electoral college, chances of post sharing are high. Besides them, Haryana wrestler Anita Sheoran, who is a witness in the sexual harassment case against Brij Bhushan, is also in the electoral college from Odisha.

What makes the process complicated is the active involvement of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) along with the Sports Ministry. "The SAI is taking keen interest and even tried to influence a Brij Bhushan's loyalist from South India recently," claimed an insider.

The existing situation means a clearer picture could emerge only after the withdrawal of candidatures. "Nominations are expected to be filed by both factions. A clearer picture will emerge on the day of withdrawal of candidatures," said a source privy to the developments. "Brij Bhushan has numbers but still he or his faction did not raise objections on names included in the electoral college apparently against the WFI constitution. It clearly reflects the influence a third party is having on the ongoing process. Numbers will not be enough as other factors have to be kept in mind. Posts can be shared but again a key post or two may go to the rival faction," added the source.

While it is learnt that Lochab had a discussion with other members of the faction on the nomination, a few names did the round during the meeting called by Brij Bhushan. Sanjay Kumar Singh, who is WFI joint secretary and set to attend the special general body meeting on August 12 from UP, along with Olympian Jai Prakash, president of Delhi Amateur Wrestling Association, could be a candidate for president's post. Similarly, Satya Pal Singh Deshwal, the incumbent WFI treasurer, can be the nominee for the secretary's post. As far as Lochab is concerned, being a government employee, he needs a no-objection certificate from his employer (Indian Railways) to contest the election. A source confirmed that the NOC has not been issued till Sunday.

"It's too early to reach a conclusion as the final picture might be completely different from what one can think. The last date of withdrawal of nomination, August 5, will be an important day. Trying to draw inferences before that is a futile exercise," signed off the source.

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