Vijay Goel, the union sports minister, has courted some controversies in his tenure. From almost having his accreditation cancelled in the 2016 Rio Olympics for the ‘rude behaviour’ of his entourage to getting involved in an argument with teenaged Dangal actor Zaira Wasim, Goel has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Goel jumped in blind into another controversy during an event to inaugurate the second Twenty20 World Cup for the Blind in New Delhi. The sports minister blindfolded himself and swung a cricket bat with other officials present.
The Press Information Bureau released the photograph, but the Twitter verdict was swift. Goel was trolled for insensitivity towards the visually challenged. Some users dubbed him a ‘Modern day Gandhari’, in reference to the mother of the Kauravas in the epic Mahabharat, who had blindfolded herself as her husband, King Dhritarashtra, was blind.
A quick glimpse of 2 ministrs playn a demo match blind folded…sportive syd of @VijayGoelBJP n @TCGEHLOT support @blind_cricket pic.twitter.com/64zrjvO0o9— Blind Cricket (CABI) (@blind_cricket) January 30, 2017
Sports Minister @VijayGoelBJP, at inauguration of 2nd T20 World Cup Championship for the blind pic.twitter.com/qj1um4PPBE— PIB India (@PIB_India) January 29, 2017
This gesture did not go down well with people. Here is a sample of some of the tweets against Goel.
@BDUTT @PIB_India @VijayGoelBJP
Modern day Gaandhari.— Amarnath Singh (@captamarnath) January 30, 2017
@PIB_India @VijayGoelBJP are you making fun of the visually impaired?? You are so disgusting [email protected]— vivek mohandas (@vivemoh) January 30, 2017
@PIB_India @VijayGoelBJP @ShekharGupta First the embarrassment at Rio. Now this insensitive pic. No level is too low for a photo-op.— Sid Bindra (@FilmOpensOn) January 31, 2017
@PIB_India LMAO, yet again one of @narendramodi’s very own @VijayGoelBJP shows he is proudly insensitive towards the handicapped.— Murugan Frimanyan (@1astknight) January 30, 2017
Even some prominent individuals took note, slamming the sports minister for his action.
Er. Really. Is this the most sensitivity we can manage? https://t.co/Dv0FKcczv0— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) January 30, 2017
In this Lutyens Kingdom of the Political Blind, one blindfolded is the king! Camera-crazy mantris can be foolish. But this is so insensitive https://t.co/bUot2Fw937— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) January 30, 2017
Wrong, dear minister. Pl think again. Big difference between a very sensitively done endorsement advt by cricketers & a minister’s photo-op https://t.co/eMcHyn4yTv— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) January 31, 2017
Amidst all the criticism, Goel defended himself and clarified on his official handle.
Dear @ShekharGupta & @BDUTT I was requested by @blind_cricket officials to play w/ the players in that way to encourage them. Also check pic pic.twitter.com/LTFcCHrzEm— Vijay Goel (@VijayGoelBJP) January 30, 2017
Sad that journalists like @ShekharGupta & @BDUTT, are targeting me without verifying facts.
1/n— Vijay Goel (@VijayGoelBJP) January 30, 2017
On the request of @blind_cricket, is it a crime to play with them?
2/n— Vijay Goel (@VijayGoelBJP) January 30, 2017
Instead of cheering our players at the venue, @ShekharGupta & @BDUTT are demoralising the ones supporting them like me.
3/3— Vijay Goel (@VijayGoelBJP) January 30, 2017
Vijay Goel faced plenty of flak for clicking a selfie with Manoj Kumar even before the boxer had completed the mandatory dope test or media obligations during the 2016 Rio Olympics. (PTI)
Goel’s list of controversies
Goel’s act at the cricketing event adds to the list of controversies he has been involved in since taking over as Sports Minister. During the 2016 Rio Olympics, he whipped out his phone and clicked a selfie with Manoj Kumar even before the boxer had completed the mandatory dope test or media obligations. This drew intense criticism. The Games organisers threatened to cancel his accreditation for the ‘rude’ behaviour of his aides.
Recently, Dangal star Zaira Wasim, who herself faced social media criticism after meeting Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, sparred with Goel.
The 16-year-old took exception to Goel likening her experiences to that of a Muslim woman breaking free of the veil and societal restrictions. It all began when Goel had tweeted about a painting in an art gallery.
This painting tells a story similar to @zairawasim, पिंजरा तोड़ कर हमारी बेटियां बढ़ने लगी हैं आगे | More power to our daughters!
2/2 pic.twitter.com/RaolLKrZeg— Vijay Goel (@VijayGoelBJP) January 19, 2017
Taking note of the tweet, Wasim stated that he should not have connected her to “such a discourteous depiction”. She also said women in hijab are “beautiful and free”.