The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has drawn flack from the United World Wrestling (UWW) for not holding the necessary elections. The world apex wrestling body has also ‘indefinitely’ suspended the membership of the controversy-ridden WFI.
The federation, which is India’s wrestling governing body, was supposed to hold elections in June 2023. However, the elections have been repeatedly postponed due to a series of protests by Indian wrestlers and legal petitions from various state units.
This action by the global governing body will not allow Indian grapplers to compete at the upcoming World Championships under the Indian flag.
They can still participate, but as ‘neutral athletes’ at the Olympic-qualifying World Championships starting September 16 as the ad-hoc panel, led by Bhupender Singh Bajwa, did not honour the 45-day deadline for conducting the elections. The wrestlers, though, can compete under the Indian flag at the Asian Games, starting September 23 in Hangzhou, since it’s the IOA that has sent entries and not the WFI.
The elections for 15 positions on the WFI’s governing body were scheduled to be held on August 12. On Monday, four candidates, including outgoing Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s close aide Sanjay Singh from Uttar Pradesh, filed nominations for the post of president at Olympic Bhawan in New Delhi.
Darshan Lal of the Chandigarh wrestling body was nominated for the position of general secretary, while SP Deswal of Uttarakhand was nominated for treasurer from the Brij Bhushan camp.
The WFI was suspended first in January and then again in May after India’s top wrestlers protested against its functioning and alleged its then president Brij Bhushan sexually harassed female wrestlers. The day-to-day affairs of WFI are currently being managed by the IOA-constituted committee led by Bhupender Singh Bajwa.
Notably, UWW had warned WFI of suspension if the elections were delayed.
Maharashtra and Tripura will not have any representatives at the elections as the Returning Officer deemed claims of both factions from the former “ineligible”, while Tripura has remained disaffiliated since 2016.