The Indian Express

A party, billboards and Bathinda mayor’s husband

If there is one couple who you cannot miss in Bathinda, it’s the city’s first woman mayor Raman Goyal and her much-in-news husband Sandeep Goyal, who was recently booked and arrested for flouting Covid-19 guidelines. Every nook and cranny of the city is plastered with hoardings carrying pictures of the two.

Goyal, a liquor contractor, was booked at Bathinda thermal police station for hosting a party in violation of the Covid protocols. As the dust is settling on the lavish celebration with politicians distancing themselves from it after attending the do, it’s the flashy hoardings that are making the opposition see red. Reason: it is alleged that the Goyals and their supporters did not  pay the municipal corporation a paisa for them. Recent pictures showing Goyal sitting with the mayor in her office and leafing through files are also raising brows.

Even his partymen are a tad embarrassed about the in-the-face ad blitz. Jagroop Gill, a seven-time Congress councillor, who was in the race to become the mayor, says, “It is not good for the image of our party. How can we glorify an accused for violating Covid-19 guidelines? It is a very serious crime in today’s world. We have seen how public was thrashed for violating the guidelines. If Sandeep Goyal’s pictures remain on hoardings all over the city, the government will lose all moral right to take action against any other Covid protocol violator.”

An MC employee, who requested anonymity, clarified that no one had taken any permission from them to intsall the hoardings. “We have a case pending in the Punjab and Haryana High Court relating to the advertisement sites due to which we are not allotting these to private players for now. We are only allowing government advertisements related to Covid-19.’’

These hoardings began to rankle people after Sandeep Goyal flouted the night curfew to host a party at a marriage palace in Bathinda. The very next day, pictures of the party went viral on social media along with old pictures of police thrashing Covid protocol violators.

The pictures sparked a hue and cry in Bathinda following which the police booked Sandeep Goyal and 11 others, including Congress councillors Sukhraj Aulakh and Rattan Rahi. Now there are murmurs about no action being taken against relatives of finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal for being present at the celebration.

Saying that the party was a mistake, a contrite Sandeep Goyal told The Indian Express  that Arjun Badal and Jaijeet Johal had come for only a few minutes. ‘‘They left the party after seeing the crowd.” The SHO, thermal plant police station, when contacted, said, “So far we have booked 12 persons. Show me the pictures of Arjun Badal and Jaijeet Singh Johal, and  I will book them too.”

Gill says the police should scan the CCTV camera footage to bring all those present to book.

‘‘If Bathinda police goes soft in this case, it will lose its credibility,’’ he remarked.

Questions are also being asked about the picture of  Sandeep Goyal in billboards installed to felicitate his wife. Congress officiating president, Arun Wadhwan defended it by saying, ‘‘Generally, the husbands of women councillors also hold some position in the party. Wives are just house wives.”

Goyal says his wife joined politics only after she was given Congress ticket from the ward reserved for women. When asked about pictures from the mayor office showing him sitting along with her, and working on some files, Goyal said, ” As many people come with their files, I sit along with her. Madam is doing all the work. Husbands of women MCs also come along with their wives.’’

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