Opposition questions logic behind overseas trip amid plight of riot victims

Even as the Samajwadi Party government is still facing flak for the plight of the displaced Muzaffarnagar communal riot victims, the corridors of power in the State capital wore a deserted look on Wednesday as over half a dozen senior Ministers, including Mohammad Azam Khan and Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya, and MLAs left on a foreign jaunt, dubbed a “study tour.”

Some other Ministers, ruling party MLAs and officials made a beeline on Wednesday for ‘Saifai Mahotsav,” a fortnight-long cultural jamboree being held at Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s village, Saifai in Etawah district, where film actors Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit are slated to perform live. The Yadav family, including Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, was present.

Coming against the background of the appalling living conditions of the displaced riot victims in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, the foreign jaunt and the Saifai Mahotsav have been condemned by the Opposition parties. They have questioned the logic of the foreign trip and the film stars nite at Saifai, all at tax payers expense.

With the SP government under attack from the BJP and the Congress for hosting the cultural bash at Saifai, the media, including the TV cameramen, were reportedly banned from covering the film actors’ stage performance. However, SP sources claimed that only TV cameramen have been kept out and the print media and photographers have not been denied entry. These sources claimed that this has been done at the behest of the PR teams accompanying Salman Khan and Dixit.

The 22-member team comprising Ministers and MLAs under the aegis of Uttar Pradesh’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has gone on a 20-day “study tour” to Turkey, Greece, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and UAE. Incidentally, apart from the U.K. none other country mentioned in the itinerary is a Commonwealth nation.

Besides Mr. Khan, who is the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, and Raja Bhaiya, Food and Civil Supplies Minister, the other Ministers in the entourage are Ambika Chaudhary, Om Prakash Singh, Shiv Kumar Beria, Bhagwat Saran Gangwar, Yogesh Kumar Singh and Abhishek Mishra. The team also includes MLAs, Irfan Solanki, Manoj Paras and Ghazala Lari (the Samajwadi Party), Seema Dwivedi (the BJP) and Puran Prakash of the Rashtriya Lok Dal. The Principal Secretary of the Vidhan Sabha, Pradeep Dubey, has accompanied the delegation.

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