Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav today defended a grand festival including a Bollywood dance night at his ancestral village Saifai, which has been widely criticized as a display of appalling insensitivity at a time thousands are suffering in riot-affected Muzaffarnagar.
"The media should apologise to me, to Netaji (Mulayam Singh, his father) for their reports on Safai," Mr Yadav said, describing the Saifai Mahotsava as a part of the state's policy to boost tourism.
"The locals had been preparing for a year. The traders at the Saifai festival are very minor. This event gives them revenue."
The Chief Minister said his government had done everything possible for the people living in relief camps after the September Muzaffarnagar riots, which left nearly 60 dead and 40,000 displaced. (read: all we have is this tent, say riot victims)
The Samajwadi Party government has been slammed for spending heavily on the lavish festival when riot-affected families in relief camps have been complaining of inadequate medicines and warm clothing to see them through winter.
Mr Yadav rubbished various media reports while asserting that only seven crore had been spent on the Saifai Mahotsav, from legitimate funds budgeted for festivals in the state.
"Channels are questioning artistes who performed. I am the Chief Minister, ask me. Why question them?" he said, referring to the anger directed at film stars who had performed at the Bollywood night on Wednesday. (read: Defiant Akhilesh showers largesse on Bollywood)
Pilloried on social media, actor Salman Khan defended his presence saying his charity 'Being Human' had committed to fund heart surgeries of 200 children in Uttar Pradesh during the event. (read: SRK backs Salman Khan)
Madhuri Dixit, who also performed at Saifair, tweeted "As artists and celebrities, we believe in using our reach to help others through drawing attention to the needs of the day."
Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt said on NDTV's Left, Right and Centre that he failed as a father by not stopping his daughter Alia from dancing in Saifai. (Failed as a father for not stopping Alia: Mahesh Bhatt)