PT Usha / Photo:ANI
New Delhi: Several opposition leaders hit out at Indian Olympic Association president PT Usha on Friday for criticising a protest by wrestlers in Delhi, alleging she has become a "political mouthpiece".
The wrestlers have launched a second round of protest against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, accusing him of sexual harassment and intimidation.
Usha, a Rajya Sabha member, has condemned the protest, saying the grapplers lacked discipline in hitting the street in support of their demand. She also said their action has tarnished the image of India.
Responding to Usha, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said ignoring their pleas tarnishes the country's image, not their protest.
"Dear @PTUshaOfficial, it is does not become you to disparage the justified protests of your fellow sportspersons in the face of repeated & wanton sexual harassment. Their standing up for their rights does not 'tarnish the image of the nation'. Ignoring their concerns - instead of hearing them out, investigating them & taking just action - does," he said.
CPI MP Binoy Viswam blamed the sprinter's "newly found" political friends for her stand on the issue.
"Usha, with utmost respect and affection, I have to say, your comments on the suffering wrestlers should have been avoided. The country and the sport lovers wish to see you as a spirited sports person. Alas! Your newly found friends want to make you their political mouthpiece," Viswam said.
TMC MP Mahua Moitra also attributed the former sportswoman's stand to her Rajya Sabha seat.
"Wrestlers protesting on streets tarnishing India's image says @PTUshaOfficial. So ruling party MP chairing WFI for years accused of molestation & abuse of power against who @DelhiPolice refuses to lodge FIR in spite of SC order makes India smell of roses, does it?" tweeted Moitra.
Congress MP Jebi Mather said a person like P T Usha who is held in high esteem by every Indian, especially sports enthusiasts, stooping to the level of demeaning the wrestlers, is quite unwarranted and unexpected of her.
"By degrading the wrestlers, P T Usha has failed in the exercise of her duties as the President of Indian Olympic Association," she said.
"Instead of standing by the side of her fellow sportspersons who are fighting for justice in the context of repeated instances of sexual harassment, Usha is playing petty politics. She owes an apology to the wrestlers. While the matter is sub-judice, it is quite suspicious that she has taken a stand against the wrestlers," Mather said.
"The fact that Usha, who expressed solidarity with the wrestlers while they first raised the complaint in January, has now changed her stance raises questions regarding her intention," she said.
Top wrestlers are protesting at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, demanding that the government make public the findings of the oversight panel that investigated sexual harassment allegations against the WFI chief.
Rajya Sabha member Mather said that being the president of the Indian Olympic Association, Usha should make efforts to ensure unity and equality among the sportspersons, not to create division.
She should make earnest efforts in resolving the issue at the earliest, the Congress MP added. PTI