Wrestler Anita Sheoran, one of the key witnesses in the sexual harassment case against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, is in the running to replace the BJP MP as the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). Anita, a gold medalist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, filed her nomination papers on Monday, the last day for filing nominations for the WFI elections on August 12.
If Anita wins the WFI elections, she will create history. She will be the first woman to lead Indian wrestling, which has its roots in all-male akhadas. Although Indian women in wrestling have made a mark at the international level, the decision-makers have always been men.
Anita, 38, is the only woman in the 50-member list of voters and candidates for the WFI elections. She is likely to face two candidates from the Brij Bhushan camp. Olympian Jai Prakash, the president of the Delhi wrestling association, and Sanjay Singh Bhola of Uttar Pradesh are the two candidates. Both candidates have long been associated with Brij Bhushan, who has been accused of sexual harassment by six female wrestlers.
The case against outgoing WFI chief Brij Bhushan is being heard in a Delhi court, which had granted him bail about a week ago. The Brij Bhushan camp held a meeting in Delhi on Monday. They claimed that they have the support of at least 20 of the 25 state units.
"We are confident of doing well. In the next few days, we will finalise who will be the final candidate for the post but regardless, our choice will be unanimous." said Jai Prakash.
Anita was one of the first to corroborate the allegations of sexual harassment against Brij Bhushan. In June, Anita had told that one of the complainants abroad informed her about the incident. Brij Bhushan had allegedly called the complainant to his room and "forcibly" hugged him. Anita did not comment on Monday.
Meanwhile, Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) secretary Prem Chand Lochab is also on Anita's panel. He is the candidate for the post of general secretary. While Dushyant Sharma has filed nominations for the posts of vice president and treasurer. Hotelier Devender Kadian from Haryana is the panel's choice for the post of Senior Vice President.
The Brij Bhushan faction has nominated Darshan Lal of Chandigarh for the post of general secretary Satyapal Singh Deshwal of Uttarakhand for the post of treasurer, and Asit Kumar Saha of West Bengal for the post of senior vice president. In June, the government assured protesting wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Malik, and Bajrang Punia that they would not allow anyone from Brij Bhushan's family to hold any position in the federation. As such, the names of Brij Bhushan and his son Karan do not figure in the voter list. Even though BJP MP's son-in-law Vishal Singh will represent Bihar, he is not competing for any post.