Who is the current poster boy tom-tomming the “achievements” of nine years of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre? None less than Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the outgoing wrestling chief and BJP parliamentarian. The man that the country’s top women wrestlers have accused the outgoing Wrestling Federation of India president of sexually harassing women wrestlers.
On Sunday, June 11, Singh organised a 50-jeep, roadshow that ran for 35 kilometres in his eastern Uttar Pradesh constituency of Kaisarganj before he addressed the rally. The ostensible reason was to laud the performance of the nine-year-old Modi government, which Singh did, his shawl sporting an image of a the shawl-clad Modi himself.
Interestingly, at this rally organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party to give their sexual harassment-accused MP a platform, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said that will be contesting the 2024 polls despite the serious allegations made against him by several of India’s medal-winning wrestlers. The ‘Mahasampark Abhiyan’ was organised to celebrate nine years of the Narendra Modi regime.
Several BJP leaders from Uttar Pradesh shared the stage with Singh in Gonda, and the chief guest was Mohan Yadav, minister of state for higher education in Madhya Pradesh. Singh wore a scarf with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s face on it.
On being asked at the rally about whether he will contest in 2024, Singh said, as reported in The Hindu, “Kaiserganj se chunav ladunga (I will contest election from Kaiserganj).” He also claimed that the BJP would win all Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh. “The BJP will form a majority government in 2024 under Modi ji’s leadership,” he continued.
“The main objective is to tell Prime Minister Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah that he is in a position to damage the BJP’s prospects in Kaisarganj, Gonda, Balrampur, Faizabad and Shravasti constituencies, from where his supporters came to participate in the public meeting held after the road show,” the associate, who didn’t want to be identified, said.
Singh’s fate hangs in the balance till June 15.
One of Singh’s team told The Telegraph, that the objective was to show the BJP’s central leadership that Singh enjoys large-scale political clout in his region. “The main objective is to tell Prime Minister Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah that even after the serious allegations against him being made public, he is still in a position to damage the BJP’s prospects in Kaisarganj, Gonda, Balrampur, Faizabad and Shravasti constituencies, from where his supporters came to participate in the public meeting held after the road show,” the aid said.
The motive behind the regime’s reluctance to act against the UP strongman is clear. The Modi government has so far stonewalled the wrestlers’ demand to have him arrested, apparently because it believes he can deliver the BJP a handful of seats in next year’s general election.
Just last week, Union Sports minister Anurag Thakur has assured the wrestlers that the Delhi police, who report to the Union home ministry, would complete their probe by June 15 and file a chargesheet. The associate further said Singh was aware of speculation that Modi and Shah might ask him to resign as MP, and that Shah might ask the police to arrest him. “But he is not ready to submit. In fact, he has defied party rules by declaring at the rally that he would contest from Kaisarganj in 2024,” the associate said.
A poll committee formed by the BJP before elections is alone authorised to pick the candidates. The roads along Singh’s jeep rally from his home in Vishnoharpur village to Balpur were largely empty. The saffron-clad MP stopped at about 10 places to be garlanded by a few dozen waiting supporters.
The public meeting that followed at Balpur, held ostensibly to celebrate the Modi government’s completion of nine years, attracted about 10,000 people. The six-time MP read out a Hindi couplet at the beginning of his speech and then declared: “I will contest again from Kaisarganj.”
The couplet was about continuing affection amid betrayal, but Singh refused to explain its significance to reporters after the event. “This is how I am,” he said and got into his car. Mohan Yadav, minister of state for higher education in Madhya Pradesh, was the chief guest at the meeting and several local BJP leaders were on the dais.
Ask Amit Shah: Vinesh Phogat
Meanwhile, Vinesh Phogat, the double world medallist, on Sunday joined the protesting farmers in Punjab and on her way spoke to the media at Khatkar Toll Plaza in Haryana, PTI reported. Asked about the meeting the wrestlers had with home minister Shah, Phogat said: “They had given a few proposals that they can do that much for us but except the arrest of Brij Bhushan, everything is happening.”
When questioned on why Singh is not being arrested, the firebrand wrestler said: “You have to ask Amit Shah, why he (WFI chief) is not being arrested. He is such a powerful man that the government is trying to shield him. So getting him arrested is not easy but we are continuing our fight.”
There is speculation, the aide said, that Modi and Shah may ask Singh to resign or even order his arrest – but Singh is unwilling to accept this. “But he is not ready to submit. In fact, he has defied party rules by declaring at the rally that he would contest from Kaisarganj in 2024,” the associate told The Telegraph.
Singh did not directly talk about the allegations against him or the wrestlers’ ongoing protest, but started his speech with a couplet suggesting that he is the one being victimised. “Kabhi ashq, kabhi gham, to kabhi zeher piya jata hai. Tab jakar jamane me jiya jata hai. Yeh mila mujhko mohabbat ka sila, bewafa kehke mera naam liya jata hai. Isko ruswai kahen ki shohrat apni, dabe hontho se mera naam liya jata hai [Sometimes you drink tears, sometimes sadness, and at times poison. Only then do you live in society. This is the reward I have received for my love; they call me unfaithful. Call it notoriety or fame, they take my name with pursed lips].”
Announcing Sunday’s rally last week, Singh had said on Twitter, “I am organising a huge rally on June 11 at 10 am. This program is proposed at Shri Raghuraj Sharan Singh Mahavidyalaya, next to Balapur on Gonda-Lucknow road. All the supporters, workers, present and former office bearers of the party, respected Pradhan, Chhetrapanchayat members, block chiefs, presidents of municipalities, councilors, district panchayat members, district panchayat presidents and MLAs are cordially invited in the rally.”
Earlier, Singh had cancelled a rally planned in Ayodhya.
It is crucial to remember that Singh, who was the president of the Wrestling Federation of India, is currently facing criminal charges based on complaints of seven women wrestlers that he sexually harassed them. Wrestlers have been protesting against the government’s alleged inaction against the MP since January 2023. During recent discussions with Union home minister Amit Shah and sports minister Anurag Thakur, the wrestlers were reportedly promised that the police would complete its probe by June 15.