Lucknow: A rattled Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Friday stoutly defended his party's annual cultural extravaganza after it earned the ire of the opposition and also mounted a shrill attack on the media.
Hitting back at the media and critics of the 'Saifai Mahotsav' which had some top Bollywood stars in attendance, Akhilesh said the budget for the festival held at his family's native village was around Rs six to seven crore and not Rs 300 crore as alleged.
Slamming the campaign against the Mahotsav, he demanded an apology from the media for making exaggerated claims about the expenditure incurred for the event.
The just-concluded festival of fun and frolic ran into controversy with the opposition asking how the ruling Samajwadi Party(SP) could go ahead when the victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots were living in difficult circumstances.
"It's being said purposely that the budget for Saifai Mahotsav was Rs 300 crore... Those who are making such a claim should apologise or else give the details of the expenditure made for the festival," Akhilesh said at a press conference here.
"The person who has written such a story should be punished... We have a mela committee which keeps the expenditure details... And we should not be forced to launch a struggle," he said.
Condemning the Chief Minister for his remarks, the opposition said his tone and tenor against the media was dangerous for the democracy.
"The tone and tenor in which Akhilesh attacked media is dangerous for the democracy', BJP state president Lakshmi Kant Bajpai told PTI. Talking about the participation of film stars in the Mahotsav, Akhilesh said, "They have come earlier too when SP was not in power... It's not right to humiliate them (the artistes) and ask how did they take part in the programme."
He lamented that though Bollywood superstar Salman Khan visited a hospital and offered help to children there it was not covered by the media.
The Chief Minister, who apparently showed some discomfort taking questions from the media, said the aim of the mahotsav is to encourage the region's and state's culture. "It gives a platform to the young artistes , small traders and some farmers and some Rs. 6 or 7 crores are spent every year and it would be the same this time also," he added.
Akhilesh Yadav has also cancelled plans to attend 'Dedh Ishqiya' premiere with Madhuri Dixit after facing flak for organising the cultural extravaganza in Saifai village.
The star-studded gala at the ancestral village of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and the CM drew the ire of the opposition parties and the media who accused the state government of ignoring Muzaffarnagar riot victims' sufferings.
The CM's programme to watch the premiere has been cancelled, a senior official told PTI without citing any reasons. As per the programme Akhilesh was to watch the premiere at a mall here this afternoon with Madhuri and other dignitaries.
The state government had on Thursday announced an aid of Rs one crore to 'Dedh Ishqiya' and Saif Ali Khan's 'Bullet Raja' as they were shot in UP. Though no official reason has been cited for cancellation of CM's programme, sources said that the decision was taken following public cirticism....