Bharatiya Janata Party MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, 66, is in the thick of a huge controversy with accusations of sexual harassment levelled against him by India’s top and decorated wrestlers.
Top wrestling champions of India, including Bajrang Punia, Sakshee Mallikkh, Vinesh Phogat, sat in protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi for the third straight day on Friday, accusing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment and ‘dictatorship’.
We're waiting for Brijbhushan Sharan Singh to come forward. We're here by risking our careers. This fight is for our young wrestlers who're the future of wrestling: Bajrang Punia, Olympian Wrestler on day 3 of protest against Wrestling Federation of India,at Jantar Mantar, Delhi pic.twitter.com/7yDX8oBpdi— ANI (@ANI) January 20, 2023
Who is Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh?
Hailing from Gonda, Singh marked his entry into active politics through the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Often referred in political circles as “dabang (fearless) or “shaktishali”, Singh has spent most of his youth in the akhadas of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.
A six-term MP, five as a BJP member, and once as Samajwadi Party candidate in 2009, his political clout is spread over half-a-dozen districts around his native Gonda district in Uttar Pradesh. He has represented Gonda and Balrampur in the past, and now Kaiserganj. His son Prateek Bhushan is also a two-time MLA from Gonda Sadar.
A close political aide of Singh told The Indian Express that SP’s ideology didn’t inspire him, which resulted in his return to the BJP.
Involved in Ramjanmabhoomi movement
His involvement in the Ramjanmabhoomi movement also landed him in legal trobuble, with a case registered against him in the Babri demolition case, according to his 2019 election affidavit. His influence in Ayodhya ensured that the party took note of him. He was fielded from Gonda Lok Sabha seat in 1991 and won the election. In 1996, when he didn’t contest, his wife Ketaki Devi Singh was out there to contest, who too won.
It is because of this formidable record that despite having run-ins with the ruling party, including with UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, he has been the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for almost 10 years and vice-president of the United World Wrestling-Asia.
BJP leaders say that Singh’s goodwill and clout and work for the underprivileged have helped him win successive elections. They claim that he has earned this goodwill through his association with over 50 educational institutions, that he had helped set up in Bahraich, Gonda, Balrampur, Ayodhya and Shrawasti districts.
However, BJP leaders maintain that despite the wins, the party keeps a safe distance from him denying him any position within the organisation and Union government.
Singh’s influence has helped him get away with incidents such as criticism of the ruling Adityanath government during floods in October last year. He also praised SP leader Azam Khan, who is one of the most vocal critics of the BJP, and called him a “mass leader.
He also threatened Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, which the BJP sees as an ally, against visiting Ayodhya for “humiliating” north Indians.
The BJP, although not out in the open, dismisses his remarks as publicity stunts.
No truth to allegations: Brij Sharan Singh
Meanwhile, in the ongoing WFI row, refuting the charges of sexual harassment, Singh said, “There is no truth in any of the allegations. Why should I quit? Even if one woman wrestler comes and proves the sexual harassment charge, I am ready to be hanged. There is an industrialist behind it (conspiracy). There can be an investigation by the CBI or police. There is no dictatorship. These same wrestlers had met me a week back and did not say anything,” as quoted by PTI.
The WFI president indicated that the new policy and the rules they have introduced are perhaps causing a bit of discomfort to the wrestlers and that is the reason why athletes were protesting.