The political layers in the battle between WFI and wrestlers
It is likely that some sections of the BJP and some private industrialists are involved in the face-off between wrestlers and the wrestling federation.
New Delhi: The current battle between India's top wrestlers and the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is purportedly a face-off between athletes and the federation.
Featuring prominent wrestlers such as Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, Ravi Dahiya and many more, this looks like a battle between two stakeholders of the game at first glance. However, there might be more layers to the whole controversy.
Battle of political powers?
WFI President Brij Bhushan Singh is not new to controversies and is known to be outspoken. He has been embroiled in multiple controversies before.
The current protest against him might be a chain reaction to one such controversy.
One month ago, talking about the famous yoga guru Baba Ramdev and his Patanjali food products, Brij Bhushan Singh had said, "Baba Ramdev is the king of adulteration. His edible products are unhealthy and I ask UP and Uttarakhand government to take a look into this."
Following his claims, Baba Ramdev sent a notice to Brij Bhushan Singh to apologise but the BJP MP didn't budge.
One of the biggest supporters of the current BJP government, Baba Ramdev is an influential figure in Indian politics. It looks a highly possible scenario where the wrestlers pitted against the WFI President might have a political push.
Babita Phogat, the cousin of Vinesh Phogat and sister-in-law of Bajrang Punia, is a former BJP candidate. It might be possible that political powers are looking to use their clout inside the wrestling fraternity to mount an attack against the WFI President.
An unnamed WFI official told The Bridge on Wednesday, "This looks like a political controversy. There is some push from behind. They are angry after the policy change."
Corporate powers against WFI?
Another layer to this controversy was revealed when WFI President Brij Bhushan Singh said, "There is an industrialist who is moving against me. The players are pushed against me by these powers."
While no name has been mentioned yet, this could be a charge against industrialists who are known to be private sponsors of high-profile athletes like Bajrang Punia and Vinesh.
A new policy by the WFI has asked all the wrestlers to not take private sponsors and that any private sponsor will have to go through the federation.
One of the points raised by the wrestlers in their protest on Wednesday was regarding this. They said that they cannot trust WFI with regards to being the conduit between them and such private agencies.
Who is Brij Bhushan Singh?
Brij Bhushan Singh is a six-time member of Parliament from Uttar Pradesh and is one of the most powerful politicians from the region. He has been winning elections since 1991 and has been President of WFI since 2011.
Brij Bhushan Singh has been involved in multiple controversies ranging from political to personal. He was allegedly involved in the infamous Babri Masjid case also.
Since taking over the WFI leadership, Brij Bhushan has been seen on every stage from junior to senior tournaments. He is often seen interfering with referees by giving them advice or telling judges about the rules.
With the passing of time, multiple layers are coming up in the controversy and the big allegations will come to nothing if the wrestlers back down.
Who known what the fallout will be and which of the big names will be incriminated, but the next few days are going to be extremely crucial for the Indian wrestling ecosystem.