Shelar confident of winning BFI elections; Boxers worried about ‘power tussle’ ahead of Tokyo Olympics

Boxing Federation of India presidential contender Ashish Shelar.

Former Maharashtra sports minister and Boxing Federation of India presidential contender Ashish Shelar on Thursday expressed his confidence about winning the BFI elections on February 3.

At a media interaction in New Delhi on Thursday, Shelar revealed that he and his team had met virtually every state unit in the run-up to the elections and “have noted their dissatisfaction and anger”.

“We are going to win the BFI elections by garnering over 70 per cent of the votes,” Shelar, a BJP leader, declared in response to a specific question. “I have personally interacted with almost every state unit and have learnt that the current dispensation in BFI under Mr Ajay Singh had made many promises before coming to power but has delivered very little,” he added, just before filing his nomination papers for the president’s post.

“The federation itself has been run in an autocratic manner, with the state units being completely ignored, which has been a huge setback for Indian boxing at the grassroots level. The financial situation of the BFI is also very delicate due to gross mismanagement and lack of vision which requires urgent attention,” he said.

Shelar, who has held many top positions in sport, including as president of Maharashtra Cricket Association and Mumbai District Football Association, charged that “Ajay Singh and his men were desperately trying to cling to power, even rigging the Electoral College list through the Returning Officer”.

“The Delhi High Court had ruled that only the President or Secretary can finalise the voters’ list. Despite that, the RO has taken decisions on at least three states without having any power to do so, which are, as you can imagine, detrimental to us,” he revealed.

BFI secretary-general Jay Kowli said that he was most unhappy with the way the BFI had been functioning. “It was being run out of the Spicejet office in Gurugram in a dictatorial manner. None of us were ever taken into confidence and nothing has been done to promote and nurture boxing at the grassroots level.

“I had been voicing my dissent against all this but without any effect. I am convinced that another spell by this team can ruin boxing. Something as basic as holding junior level national tournaments has not been done in the last four years. That is why I decided to support somebody who has the welfare of the sport and the boxers in his heart,” Kowli said.

“So many sports federations, even Bihar polls for the Assembly, were held despite the pandemic. But Ajay Singh postponed the BFI polls at the last moment as he realised that he would lose. Sadly for him, we are even better prepared now,” he said.

However, one BFI member slammed Shelar and Kowli’s claims, saying the federation under Ajay Singh has been doing “great work” in grass root level as well. “Junior nationals men and women held in 2017, 2018, 2019 and the young boxers were/are so happy with this new concept. We have done a lot on the grass root level as well. Anybody can check the records for that. It is on papers. For power, people are lying and they themselves are getting exposed. We have all the records with us to prove it,” he said.

The recent administration “mess” has also left some Indian boxers worried. “Olympic is this year and now a power tussle or election drama is on. We faced a lot in the past because of administration mess . We just wish all this settle soon so that we can focus more on the game rather than on this drama,” they told DLP on condition of anonymity.

As many as nine Indian pugilists will be seen at the Olympics later this year after starring performances in the Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers in Amman last year.

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