India’s protesting wrestlers have received support from several political parties in their campaign for the ouster and arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over allegations of sexual harassment. The wrestlers have been calling for Singh’s “immediate arrest” since one of the complainants is a minor. The country’s top women wrestlers have been protesting at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar for more than two weeks, demanding Singh’s arrest. These are no ordinary wrestlers who are pressing to be heard but wrestlers who had made the country proud many a time with medals in Olympics and world championships. Performers like Vinesh Phogat, Sakshi Mallik and Bajrang Punia are leading the protest movement. Many sportspersons of the past have all extended their support.
Two first information reports have been registered against Singh after the Supreme Court’s intervention. But Singh, who is also a BJP MP, has refused to step down from his position in the wrestling body. But as the wrestlers’ controversy intensifies in Delhi and the BJP maintains an unexplained silence, Singh – the man in the eye of the storm – apparently has an option charted out for himself. Singh may cross over to the Samajwadi Party (SP) if the BJP initiates action against him. Singh has had political associations with the SP in the past. He contested the 2009 Lok Sabha election on an SP ticket and won. He joined the BJP in 2014. He gave an indication to this effect last week when he praised SP president Akhilesh Yadav for not supporting the wrestlers who have been demanding action against him.
The developments on this score have become clearer with the Samajwadi Party (SP) asking its media panelists not to “support or oppose” Singh in television debates. Amid all this, the BJP is unwilling to take a decision on the controversy because it does not wish to upset the apple cart in eastern Uttar Pradesh where Singh wields considerable influence. The Lok Sabha elections are just a few months away and Singh wields influence in at least six to seven Lok Sabha seats. There is speculation lately of Singh switching parties again should the BJP deny him a ticket in the Lok Sabha elections next year. Therefore, the BJP chose to adopt a wait-and-watch attitude and perhaps hoping that the controversy will die down soon.
The SP, on the other hand, will be ready to welcome Singh in its fold if he does decide to join the party. The SP does not have a Thakur leader of stature and after its relationship with independent legislator Raja Bhaiyya deteriorated, the party is facing a vacuum where Thakur leadership is concerned. The road to return to SP will now be smoother for him since his arch rival and SP leader Vinod Singh a.k.a Pandit Singh is no more. Besides, he has also been acquitted in the Babri demolition case for want of evidence. While Singh is playing political chess, it remains to be seen if the government would checkmate him given that members of several farmer unions and khap panchayats have warned that they would launch a protest if Singh is not arrested by May 21.
Leave a Reply