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Rahul Gandhi meets Bajrang Punia amid row over Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh loyalist Sanjay Singh's election as WFI chief

Bajrang had returned his Padma Shri on December 22 in protest over Sanjay's election as president in the Wrestling Federation of India polls last week

PTI New Delhi Published 27.12.23, 01:11 PM

X / @RahulGandhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday met Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia and other wrestlers at Jhajjar in Haryana amid a row over the election of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh loyalist Sanjay Singh as Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president.

Bajrang had returned his Padma Shri on Friday in protest over Sanjay's election as president in the WFI polls last week.


Gandhi, a former Congress president, met and interacted with the wrestlers at the Virendra Akhada at Jhajjar's Chhara village where Bajrang began his journey in the sport.

"He (Rahul Gandhi) came to see our routine (training). He did wrestling and exercise with me. He came to see what is the day-to-day life of a wrestler," Bajrang told reporters.

The meeting came a day after World Championship medallist Vinesh Phogat returned her Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award to the government in protest against Sanjay's election.

Gandhi asked on his social media handle whether parents will still send their children to take up wrestling if "the daughters of India" have to leave their Akhada to fight for their rights and justice on the streets.

"After years of hard work, patience and unmatched discipline, and shedding blood and sweat, a player brings a medal for his or her country," Gandhi wrote on 'X'.

"There is only one question - if these players, the daughters of India, have to leave the fight in their Akhada to fight for their rights and justice on the streets, then who will encourage their children to choose this path? "These are innocent, straightforward and simple people from farmer families, let them serve the tricolour. With full honour and respect, let them make India proud." Gandhi was referring to the five-month-long protest of wrestlers at Jantar Mantar, led by Bajrang, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik, accusing former WFI chief Brij Bhushan of sexually exploiting several women grapplers.

On Thursday, Sanjay was elected as the WFI president as the panel led by the close aide of Brij Bhushan won 13 of the 15 posts.

The wrestlers had demanded that no close associate of Brij Bhushan should enter the WFI administration.

Following the election, Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik announced that she would quit the sport.

However, the Sports Ministry later suspended the newly-elected panel for not following the provisions of its own constitution while taking decisions and also asked the IOA to constitute an ad-hoc panel to manage the affairs of the sports body.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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