Performances from Bollywood stars Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit will bring down curtains on the fortnight long extravaganza, Saifai Mahotsav, tonight, in a clear indication that the Akhilesh Yadav government has decided to brazen out the severe criticism from its opponents. Ahead of the grand finale, the state government has banned cameras at the event.
The festival, part of an annual ritual at the Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s ancestral village, is into its 15th edition now, but it has come under heavy shelling from the Opposition parties as it is being held against the backdrop of the controversy over the relief camps for Muzaffarnagar riot victims, and their plight. As many as 34 children are reported to have died in these temporary shelters after failing to withstand the bitter cold that has swept the region The government has drawn flak for trying to drive the inmates of these camps back to their homes.
“While children are dying daily in these camps, Yadav is organizing Saifai Mahotsav, with shows by dancers from foreign countries,” Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Yadav told reporters on December 29, after his attention was drawn to reports about Yadav, and his father Mulayam Singh, flying to Saifai to participate in the festival.
The BSP, too flayed the state government for its decision to go ahead with the annual festival. “They have lost all human values as they are celebrating at a time when so many kids have died in Muzaffarnagar,” BSP leader Sudhindra Bhadoria said.
Samajwadi Party leaders, however, remain defiant, and continue to defend the festival.
“I want to clarify again that UP government has conducted Saifai Mahotsav to promote arts and culture,” state cabinet minister Rajendra Chaudhary said today. In an interview to NDTV, earlier this week, the UP chief minister had justified the decision to hold the lavish show, arguing that it was an annual affair which provided jobs to the locals.