Anita Sheoran, the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games gold medallist, filed her candidature on Monday, which happened to be the final day for submitting nominations for the upcoming WFI elections scheduled for August 12. Anita's decision to contest the election marks an interesting development in the leadership succession within the organization.
One of the significant witnesses in the sexual harassment case against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, wrestler Anita Sheoran, has decided to run for the position of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president, seeking to succeed him. Anita, a gold medallist at the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games, submitted her candidature on the final day of nominations for the August 12 elections.
If she is successful in her bid, Anita will make history as the first woman to lead an ancient Indian sport with traditionally male-dominated origins in akhadas. Although Indian women have made remarkable achievements on the international stage in recent years, the leadership positions have typically been occupied by men.
Anita is the sole female candidate in the 50-member voters’ and candidates’ list for the watershed WFI elections. She is likely to face competition from two candidates associated with Brij Bhushan’s panel: Olympian Jai Prakash, the president of the Delhi wrestling association, and Sanjay Singh Bhola from Uttar Pradesh.
Both of these candidates have longstanding associations with Brij Bhushan, who currently faces sexual harassment allegations from six women wrestlers. The legal case against the former WFI chief is under consideration by a Delhi court, where he was recently granted bail.
The Brij Bhushan camp claims to have the support of at least 20 out of the 25 state units. However, Anita leads the opposition panel and is believed to have the backing of the protesting wrestlers, who were promised a significant say in determining the leadership of WFI by the government. Anita was also among those who supported the sexual harassment allegations against Brij Bhushan.
In June, Anita revealed that one of the complainants had informed her about an incident where Brij Bhushan allegedly called her to his room during a tournament abroad and “forcibly” hugged her. As the elections approached, Anita declined to make any comments on the matter.
In the elections, Prem Chand Lochab from the Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) is a candidate for the position of secretary general in Anita’s panel. Dushyant Sharma, a former wrestler from Jammu and Kashmir, has filed a nomination for the posts of vice president and treasurer. Devender Kadian, a hotelier from Haryana, is the panel’s choice for the position of senior vice president.
On Brij Bhushan’s side, Chandigarh’s Darshan Lal has been nominated for the post of secretary general, Uttarakhand’s Satyapal Singh Deshwal for treasurer, and West Bengal’s Asit Kumar Saha for senior vice president.
To address the concerns of the protesting wrestlers, the government assured that no one from Brij Bhushan’s family would hold any position in the new body. Consequently, Brij Bhushan and his son Karan were not included in the electoral roll, and Vishal Singh, Brij Bhushan’s son-in-law representing Bihar, is not seeking any position.