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.
So there’s to be a First Information Report against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, even as PT Usha, the Indian Olympic Association chief, has said wrestlers are indisciplined and has been contradicted, among others, by Kapil Dev, Neeraj Chopra, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Sania Mirza. They sympathise with the girls. Given the Asian Games are a few months away, India’s would-be participants should now be training but a goodish few of them are at Jantar Mantar in the nation’s capital, back with their # Me Too protest because in the interregnum between January, when they relented, and now, the Union sport ministry quite clearly foozled it badly. Or, so say a lot of people, quite apart from the protesters.
The wrestlers, some of them medal-winners for the country, are angry that promises made to them were just hot air. It was business as usual once the heat and dust generated by the verbal exchanges the first time around stopped giving off steam, while Singh, chief of the Wrestling Federation of India, was being sought to be pinned down. Fiats had gone forth, exhortatory drums pounded and all’s-well-that-ends-well messages sent out but the wrestlers came eventually to suss out nothing really had changed and they had only been fobbed off with insincere rhetoric the authorities had never really meant to live up to. So, having once snubbed Brinda Karat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), insisting their battle was apolitical, they later held the door open for anyone who would take their side.
That provoked instant retribution; manifest in the antagonistic criticism for that was when it came home to the party in power that the wrestlers’ row was no longer an in-house conflict, and a new chapter, with a different contour taking shape, was being added to it. The police were petitioned and the legal channel explored, which put Singh on the back foot, shutting him up. How a “history-sheeter” made the top of a national sporting federation was part of the jawdropping range of questions inherent in the conflict. His purported proximity to two of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s senior leaders ~ one in New Delhi and the other in Lucknow ~ quite apart from the financial clout he reportedly lent the party in Uttar Pradesh had nullified the aggression he had faced initially, but he was now up against the formidable force of the wrestlers’ individual as well as collective standing, which had the international media keeping an eye peeled for the latest developments, and social media doing its bit in terms of popular, quick reactions.
The Paris Olympics are next year. A prompt solution is of the essence, also to forestall any fall-out of the extended conflict within wrestling affecting other disciplines, damaging India’s prospects further. Whichever way the battle ends, it is one Indian sport will never forget. But we have to make sure our international standing, on the up for some time, doesn’t take a toss in the interregnum