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Rahul Gandhi visits 'akhara' in Jhajjar, meets Bajrang Punia amid WFI elections row - watch video

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Rahul Gandhi visits 'akhara' in Jhajjar, meets Bajrang Punia amid WFI elections row - watch video

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi speaks during a protest of Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. PTI

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi made an “impromptu” visit to an ‘akhara’ in Hayrana’s Jhajjar district on Wednesday and met wrestlers including Bajrang Punia. The visit comes in the backdrop of controversy surrounding the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) elections.

News agency PTI reported that Gandhi reached the “Virender Akhara” in the Chhara village early in the morning and interacted with the wrestlers. The senior Congress leader was at the ‘akhara’ for a couple of hours.

After Gandhi departed, Punia told reporters that the Congress leader saw the daily routine of wrestlers and interacted with them. Another grappler said they did inform Gandhi about the mental anguish caused by the WFI controversy.

Timeline: Everything that has happened since Wrestling Federation of India elections

“He reached the Akhara at 6.15 am. He asked us about our daily routine, saw how we do our exercises and he too did some exercises.

#WATCH | Haryana: On Congress MP Rahul Gandhi visits Virender Arya Akhara in Chhara village of Jhajjar district, Wrestler Bajrang Poonia says, “He came to see our wrestling routine…He did wrestling…He came to see the day-to-day activities of a wrestler.” pic.twitter.com/vh0aP921I3

— ANI (@ANI) December 27, 2023

#WATCH | Haryana: On Congress MP Rahul Gandhi visits Virender Arya Akhara in Chhara village of Jhajjar district, Wrestling Coach Virendra Arya says, “Nobody told us that he’s coming. We were practicing here and he came all of a sudden…He reached here around 6:15 am…He did… pic.twitter.com/j0eLrEz1zX

— ANI (@ANI) December 27, 2023

“We were happy that he has a lot of knowledge about wrestling and also knows some techniques,” the wrestler told reporters.

The visit comes a day after Vinesh Phogat , a two-time World Championship medallist, returned her Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award to the Prime Minister and said such honours have become meaningless when wrestlers are struggling to get justice.

Phogat’s decision follows the last-ditch and desperate moves by Olympic medallist Punia and Deaflympics champion Virender Singh Yadav who returned their Padma Shri awards and Rio Games bronze medallist Sakshi Malik quit the sport after Sanjay Singh’s election as WFI president.

Sanjay Singh is an associate of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and the wrestlers did not want anyone close to the BJP MP being appointed as a WFI official.

The Sports Ministry has suspended the newly-elected WFI body and asked the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to constitute an ad-hoc panel to manage the affairs of the sports body.

Brij Bhushan has been accused of sexual harassment by Phogat, Punia and Malik. They had held a long drawn protest at Jantar Mantar earlier this year. The matter is being heard in a Delhi court.

(with inputs from PTI)

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