The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), the regulatory authority steering wrestling within the nation, finds itself in turmoil as it faces suspension from the United World Wrestling (UWW). This significant development arises from protracted delays in conducting crucial elections and the resultant turmoil. Consequently, Indian wrestlers will be compelled to participate as ‘neutral athletes’ rather than representing their nation’s flag in the imminent World Championships. This suspension casts a spotlight on the far-reaching impacts of the WFI’s internal challenges on the global stage of sports.
Originally slated for June 2023, the WFI’s scheduled elections have encountered repeated postponements. These delays stem from a confluence of factors, including protests by Indian wrestlers and legal contests from various state units. The inability to proceed with the elections prompted the UWW, the overarching authority governing wrestling worldwide, to impose a suspension on the WFI’s membership. This punitive measure materialized due to the federation’s failure to adhere to the mandated election timeline.
Resulting from this suspension, Indian wrestlers find themselves in the unprecedented position of competing as ‘neutral athletes’ during the forthcoming World Championships, slated to begin on September 16. This unanticipated scenario arises directly from the inability of the ad-hoc panel, led by Bhupender Singh Bajwa, to organize the necessary elections within the designated 45-day window. However, it’s important to note that Indian athletes still retain the privilege to compete under the Indian flag in the upcoming Asian Games, commencing on September 23. This distinct possibility was made possible by entries being submitted by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) rather than the beleaguered WFI.
Amidst this tumultuous backdrop, nominations for pivotal positions within the WFI’s governing body have emerged. A significant contender is Sanjay Singh from Uttar Pradesh, a close associate of the outgoing WFI chief, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Singh has formally thrown his hat into the ring for the role of president. Concurrently, Darshan Lal of the Chandigarh wrestling body has been proposed for the position of general secretary, while SP Deswal of Uttarakhand is vying for the treasurer role, aligning with the Brij Bhushan camp.
This recent suspension marks another chapter in the WFI’s tumultuous history. Previously, the federation had faced suspension in both January and May, driven by high-profile protests by prominent Indian wrestlers and allegations of sexual harassment against the then-president, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The day-to-day functions of the WFI currently rest in the hands of an ad-hoc committee formed by the Indian Olympic Association, spearheaded by Bhupender Singh Bajwa.
It’s worth noting that the UWW had previously issued warnings to the WFI regarding the potential for suspension if the elections were not conducted within the specified timeframe. Regrettably, these admonitions went unheeded, leading to the current suspension.
The election landscape reveals that two Indian states, Maharashtra and Tripura, will be absent from WFI elections. The Returning Officer determined both factions from Maharashtra as ineligible, while Tripura has remained disaffiliated since 2016.
In conclusion, the Wrestling Federation of India’s inability to conduct elections in a timely manner has culminated in its suspension from the United World Wrestling. The resulting suspension has profound consequences for Indian wrestlers, necessitating their participation as ‘neutral athletes’ in the World Championships. This situation underscores the imperative of stable and transparent governance within sports federations to safeguard the interests of athletes and the integrity of the sport itself.