Stung by criticism for organising a film stars’ nite at the ‘Saifai Mahotsav’ in his parental village at a time when Muzaffarnagar riot victims were suffering, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Friday blamed the media for presenting a distorted picture of the situation. The festival, he added, was an annual event and “the Mahotsav was held even when the Samajwadi Party was not in power.”
Rubbishing reports that said Rs. 300 crore was spent on organising the festival, the Chief Minister said about Rs. 7 crore to 8 crore was spent this year with the government’s share being Rs. 1 crore. The rest of the amount was made up by contributions, he said.
The Chief Minister said either the reporter of the newspaper that published the report should apologise, or provide the break up of the money spent on the festival. “If the journalist does not render an apology, he should be punished by the newspaper.” He then went on to refer to the daily, whose owner, he said, was made a Rajya Sabha MP by the Samajwadi Party and accused it of launching a malicious campaign against his government. “He wanted the ticket again, which, for some reasons could not be given to him.”
Taking exception to some news channels asking film stars who performed in the Mahotsav about the pathetic condition of the displaced Muzaffarnagar riot victims and their children, Mr. Yadav said: “Questions on Muzaffarnagar should be asked to me, do the film artists know anything about Muzaffarnagar? My opinion should have been sought, I am the Chief Minister.” He said actor Salman Khan’s visit to a hospital in Saifai, where the actor assured support for the treatment of children, was not telecast by any TV channel.
Mr. Yadav maintained that the government provided the riot victims with all possible help in terms of relief and rehabilitation, and when asked if he thought the Saifai Mahotsav should have been a low-key affair, given the plight of the displaced people, he said: “Yeh koi beat nahin hai (this is not the issue).”
The festival, Mr. Yadav said, was started by his elder brother and is held every year where the festival committee, the villagers and people from adjoining areas get together to celebrate.
The Mahotsav showcases many events, including sports and local talent, the Chief Minister added.