Who is Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the WFI chief facing sexual abuse charge?
Allegations of sexual and mental harassment against coaches and Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh by celebrated female wrestlers shocked the country earlier this week. Around 30 wrestlers, who protested at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar for three days since Wednesday, included Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik.
They called off their protest late Friday night after getting assurances from the government that their grievances would be addressed, and Singh would be asked to step down. Also, a seven-member committee led by legendary boxer MC Mary Kom has been formed to probe the allegations. The panel will send its report in eight to 10 days, member Yogeshwar Dutta has said.
So, who is Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh? Here is what we could find out about him.
From akhadas to politics
Singh, 65, is the BJP MP from Kaiserganj in Uttar Pradesh. He has been heading the WFI since 2011. He was elected the president of the federation for the third consecutive term in February 2019. Singh is also the vice-president of the United World Wrestling-Asia.
Hailing from UP’s Gonda, Singh was a regular in the akhadas (wrestling pitches) of Ayodhya in his youth, and, later, played a role in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and Babri Masjid demolition as well. He joined student politics in the 1980s and is quite vocal about his Hindutva politics.
Singh calls himself “shaktishali” (powerful), and he has indeed been quite powerful, both on the wrestling pitch and off it. He is a six-term MP, fighting elections for the first time on a BJP ticket in 1991 and winning.
He went on to get re-elected to the Lok Sabha consecutively in 1999, 2004, 2009, 2014, and 2019, all on BJP tickets expect in 2009, when he left for a short stint in the Samajwadi Party (SP). He re-joined the BJP before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Besides Kaiserganj, he has represented Gonda and Balrampur in the past. His son Prateek Bhushan is a two-time MLA from Gonda Sadar.
Accused but never convicted
Singh was named in the Babri Masjid demolition case along with 39 other leaders and acquitted by the court.
That was not the only case ever lodged against Singh. Way back in 1993, he and two others were accused of attacking former SP minister Vinod Kumar Singh alias Pandit Singh. He was acquitted by an MP-MLA court in UP only last year.
There are other cases against Singh, too, though he is yet to be convicted in any of them. These charges include attempt to murder, rioting, dacoity, and illegal payments in connection with an election.
Because of these criminal charges, his appointment as the Chef de Mission of India’s Asiad contingent by the Indian Olympic Association in 2018 was widely criticized. Singh had argued against the criticism by pointing out to ANI that he had not been convicted in any of the cases.
As the WFI chief
Singh is known for his iron-fisted control of the federation. He can be frequently seen at tournaments and even if he cannot be physically present at one, he monitors everything virtually. He has even got into arguments with referees and judges over disagreements regarding rules.
Last year, he was even caught on camera hitting a young wrestler.
पहलवानों के गंभीर आरोपों से घिरे WFI के अध्यक्ष और BJP सांसद बृजभूषण का पुराना वीडियो वायरल हो रहा है. बृजभूषण ने रांची में अंडर-15 नेशनल कुश्ती चैम्पियनशिप के दौरान एक पहलवान को मंच पर थप्पड़ जड़ा था. #boycottwfipresident #BrijBhushanSharanSingh #wfi #BajrangPunia #VineshPhogat pic.twitter.com/rVBAXDWuL0
— Gaon Savera (@GaonSavera) January 18, 2023
After the Tokyo Olympics, Singh demanded a bigger say in the planning for the 2024 Paris Games, saying the WFI would keep a check on the NGOs that support wrestlers. He was also unhappy with the government for dealing with athletes directly under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme.
Following his tantrums, Singh was incorporated as a member of the government’s Mission Olympic Cell in December 2021.
(With agency inputs)