Former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on Saturday urged a Delhi court to discharge him in a sexual harassment case by women wrestlers, claiming material contradictions in the statements of witnesses against him.
India has been shown the door rather unceremoniously for not holding its wrestling federation’s elections within a date specified by the sport’s global authorities, but Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, amid the welter of controversies he is said to be mired in reigns supreme. A new organisation with pan-Indian pretensions has come up this week but is not taken all that seriously. If some of India’s internationally acclaimed wrestlers are to be believed, Singh’s absence ~ designed to appear to be under political orders from up above in New Delhi ~ from the Wrestling Federation of India’s everyday business is an illusion. He is believed to be in control of virtually everything that matters, assisted as usual by cronies loyal as ever despite a tide of public opinion in civil society against him. Singh cannot run for presidency in the WFI but he is so powerful a politician that the wrestlers think he will hold the string his hand-picked puppets will dance on once a few new faces are bunged into the federation. It is said that whoever tries to get into it, his son and sonin-law not being in the reckoning, will have to kowtow to him.
Meanwhile, Singh roars on ad nauseum with a sickening measure of cynicism in outbursts aimed at Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, the trio that the nation came to recognise as the faces of the protests at Jantar Mantar. The burden of his message is that they were the ones who had contrived to sully India’s reputation, reducing it to an outcast. The message that gets conveyed is that India is left struggling when Singh is not in control of things; they go haywire when he is not ruling the roost.
Countries other than India pre-empt these games easily yet dexterously because they do not juggle their priorities, as Spain has shown recently. Its soccer chief, having forcibly kissed a player after its team won the women’s World Cup, has copped it so badly it is a global lesson now. The government cannot order him out but, culturally and administratively, Luis Rubiales is persona non grata now, with an initial, 90-day Fifa suspension announced promptly.
There is a criminal investigation by the Spanish government which leaves him increasingly vulnerable as the days pass. Singh, it is said to stress a contrast, still has the advantage of the support of the power-wielding political outfit, though the police have filed charges against the long-time Bharatiya Janata Party member of Parliament. The prolonged confrontation has played out at several levels, costing India dear at the highest levels of international sport, quite apart from smearing its image across the spectrum, but Singh, as we can see, is king all right.