Lucknow, 10 January: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav hit back at critics and defended his government’s Saifai Mahotsav (festival), saying that the budget for the festival was around Rs six to seven crores and not Rs 300 crores as alleged by a section of the media.
Rebutting the media reports that his government had ignored the Muzaffarnagar riot victims, he said “I am proud of what the state government done for the riot victims of Muzaffarnagar. The UP government has done its best to provide relief to and rehabilitate those affected by the riots.”
He also lashed out at the mediapersons asking questions related to the Muzaffarnagar riots from the Bollywood stars who had performed at the festival: “Whatever you want to know about Muzaffarnagar, I am ready to answer all your queries. The media tried to insult stars by asking them questions about the riots and relief camps in Muzaffarnagar. One media person even asked questions about Muzaffarnagar riots from the father of artist from Mumbai.’’
Demanding an apology from a newspaper, the CM said, “I demand an unconditional apology from the Hindi newspaper for pegging the expenditure incurred on the Saifai festival at Rs 300 crore. The newspaper should either substantiate the allegation or take stern action against the reporter who filed this report. I can understand why this paper is running this kind of malicious campaign against the government. The owner of this paper was earlier a Rajya Sabha MP from our party, but this time the ticket was denied to him. This owner is the same person who was caught gambling during the previous Mayawati regime and was badly thrashed by the police, but then they remained silent.’’
Regarding the cost of the festival, he said, “Earlier the usual expenditure on Saifai festival was Rs 5-6 crore. This time it could be Rs eight crore. In any case, it is not above Rs 10 crore. As per the UP budget, for the current financial year 2013-14, the total provision in the annual grant of the cultural affairs department for the Sefai festival is Rs 1 crore and by the end of 31 December 2013, Rs 48.30 lakh had been spent.
The CM also defended the two-week-long foreign trip of 20 ministers and the MLAs: “There is nothing new in the foreign tour. It’s organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) every year and legislators from different states go on tour. Moreover, the foreign tour was not possible without the approval of the Centre.”
Opposition parties condemned the defence offered by Yadav. “It’s a shameless statement by the CM. His claim that Saifai festival is an annual event is no justification. Common people do not celebrate festivals like Eid and Diwali in case of a tragedy in the family or neighborhood. UP has witnessed one of the most brutal communal carnages and the whole government is celebrating the festival in Saifai,’’ remarked Sudhindra Bhadoria of the BSP.
The BJP also condemned the arguments of the CM. “We expected something better from a young chief minister, but he is the same – highly arrogant and insensitive. He is not in sync with the public mood and this is very unfortunate,” said LK Bajpai, state BJP president.