NEW DELHI, Dec 27: The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Wednesday formed a three-member ad hoc committee to run the day-to-day affairs of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) with Wushu Association of India president Bhupinder Singh Bajwa as its chairman.
The ad hoc panel was constituted at the advice of the union sports ministry which earlier had suspended the newly-elected body of the WFI with Sanjay Singh, a close associate of the tainted former chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, as its president. The Centre had suspended the WFI for not following the provisions of its own constitution while taking decisions.
Besides Mr Bajwa, the hockey Olympian M. M. Somaya and former international shuttler Manjusha Kanwar will be the two other members of the WFI. The IOA said it was appointing the new ad hoc committee to ensure fair play, accountability and transparency.
“The Indian Olympic Association has recently become aware that the recently appointed President and officials of the WFI have made arbitrary decisions in violation of their own constitutional provisions and against the principles of good governance espoused by the IOC and further without following due process overturned the rulings of the IOA appointed ad hoc committee,” read the letter from IOA chief PT Usha.
The WFI headed by Sanjay Singh — seen as a confidante of former Brij Bhushan, who was accused of sexual harassment — was suspended on Sunday three days after it elected new office bearers, amid a flurry of protests by wrestlers including Olympic medallists Sakshi Mallick and Bajrang Punia.
The IOA said in a release that the newly-elected president and officials of WFI have made arbitrary decisions in violation of their own constitutional provisions and also flouted principles of good governance. “This not only highlights a governance gap within the federation but also signifies a noticeable departure from established norms.”
“Since the IOA considers adherence to governance norms as vital for ensuring fair play, transparency and accountability and to safeguard the interests of sportspersons as espoused by IOC and to ensure continuity, it has been decided to appoint an Ad hoc committee….” The ad hoc committee was tasked to oversee and supervise WFI’s operations, which include athlete selection, submitting entries for athletes to participate in international events, organizing sports activities, handling bank accounts, managing the website, and other related responsibilities.
Mr Bajwa was also one of the members of the ad hoc committee formed by the IOA in April to run the affairs of WFI and to conduct its elections. After repeated delays due to court cases, elections were finally held on December 21 with Brij Bhushan’s close aide Sanjay Singh winning the presidential poll and within hours he had announced the schedule for the under-20 and under-15 national wrestling championships from December 28 to be held in Gonda in UP, the stronghold Brij Bhushan, who is also a BJP Member of Parliament from Gonda.
The government, while suspending the WFI, cited its “hasty announcement” of organising the U-15 and U-20 nationals “without following due procedure and not giving sufficient notice to wrestlers” for preparations. The ministry felt the new WFI body was working under the complete control of its former office-bearers, which was not in conformity with the National Sports Code.
Sanjay’s election as WFI chief also led to Rio Olympics medallist Sakshi Malik announcing her retirement from wrestling, while Tokyo Games bronze winner Bajrang Punia also returned his Padma Shri to the government. World Championships medallist Vinesh Phogat also followed suit as she returned her Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award.
The trio had led a five-month-long protest of wrestlers at Jantar Mantar, accusing Brij Bhushan of sexually exploiting several women grapplers. It was learnt that the Ministry had written to the IOA President to form the ad hoc panel to ensure that the affairs of WFI be controlled “as per the defined role of NSFs in the National Sports Development Code of India-2011, including the selection of athletes, making entries for the participation of sportspersons in international events, holding of sporting activities, etc. with immediate effect, until further orders.