Opulence Akhilesh and Mulayam Singh Yadav with guests at Saifai Mahotsav, Photo: Pramod Singh
For UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, the media has turned out to be the biggest adversary. Following criticism of the extravagance displayed at the Saifai Mahotsav even as victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots were languishing in ill-equipped relief camps, Akhilesh has trained his guns on the fourth estate.
Nearly Rs 300 crore was reportedly spent on the fest organised in the CM’s hometown in Etawah district from 26 December to 8 January. Coupled with a foreign junket for a team of Samajwadi Party ministers and MLAs, it highlighted the utter insensitivity of the Akhilesh dispensation towards the plight of riot victims and drew flak from all quarters. But, instead of making amends, Akhilesh responded by threatening to crack down on the media. The party is said to have forced cable operators in UP to unplug two news channels — Times Now and India News. While defending the Saifai Mahotsav as an event aimed at promoting tourism, he demanded an apology from the media for “exaggerating” the expenditure on the festival. At a press conference, he alleged that the Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagran published “false” reports about the expenses because the Samajwadi Party did not renominate its owner for a Rajya Sabha seat. “That’s why he has turned against us,” said the CM, claiming that “the usual expenditure on the festival is Rs 6-8 crore and it was certainly within Rs 10 crore this year”.
This was the 15th edition of the festival organised every year in the memory of Ranveer Singh Yadav, nephew of Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. Throughout the fortnight-long festival, Bollywood stars were brought in every day in helicopters. On the concluding night, seven chartered aircraft had been hired to bring the film stars from Mumbai.
“Instead of attacking the media, Akhilesh should reveal the actual expenditure on the festival,” says Lakshmikant Bajpai, state president of the BJP. “The people have a right to know who financed the huge fees for top film stars like Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit and the cost of the chartered flights.” BJP state spokesperson Vijay Pathak points out that besides the fees of the performers, the government also has to account for the expenses on the huge deployment of police forces. Bajpai alleged that funds from the Ayodhya Shodh Sansthan, which functions under the state cultural affairs department, were diverted for the festival. The department’s budget for the festival was only Rs 1 crore.
The festival committee’s manager Vedvrat Gupta, however, denies the allegation. “Besides a grant from the cultural affairs department, the entire festival was financed by donations from the people of Etawah and Mainpuri districts,” says Gupta.
There are also allegations that the state government is unduly favouring the actors who performed at Saifai by exempting the movies featuring them from entertainment tax. For instance, the recently released Dedh Ishqiya, which features Madhuri Dixit, has not only been exempted from the tax for three months, but has also got a subsidy of Rs 1 crore as 75 percent of the movie has been shot in Uttar Pradesh. However, the subsidy is in line with the state’s film policy, which was amended in April last year. “Tax exemption brings down ticket prices by at least 40 percent,” says an official of the entertainment tax department.
Mulayam Singh’s opponents mince no words in lambasting the Samajwadi Party for the Saifai extravagance while riot victims are yet to be rehabilitated and given justice. “While children were dying in the relief camps, the ruling party leaders were having fun at the cost of the exchequer,” says Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma, who was once a confidant of Mulayam.
The ruling party leaders, however, remain defiant. “The festival was meant to promote local talent and the folk art of the region,” says party spokesperson and Jail Minister Rajendra Chowdhary.
Political observers have described the Saifai festival as a manifestation of the feudal mindset of the “first family” of the Samajwadi Party. “It’s an opulent, obscene celebration of money, power and the political audacity of the Yadav family on their home turf,” says Ashutosh Mishra, who teaches political science in Lucknow University.
(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 11 Issue 4, Dated 25 January 2014)
Indian Panorama is one of the five journeys of the Maharajas’ Express, an Indian luxury train, which features Lucknow as one of its destinations. Here is a lowdown giving-out some interesting information about Lucknow – The City of Tehzeeb.
Lucknow at a Glance:
Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh was historically known as the Awadh region. Today, it is the administrative headquarters of Lucknow District and Lucknow Division. Fondly known as the ‘City of Nawabs’ or the ‘City of Tehzeeb’, it has always been a city filled with varied cultures.
Its beautiful sprawling gardens, polite mannerisms, fine-cuisine, music, and poetry (Shayari), had found a patronage in the Shia Nawabs of the city who loved Persian.
The city has been given various other names too, such as The Constantinople of India, Shiraz-i-Hind and the Golden City of the East.
Today, it is known as one of the most important cities of the country which is now emerging in various sectors like retailing, manufacturing and commercial.
Lucknow city has to offer a unique feature to its travelers, which is a perfect combination of its rich traditions and the modern growth of new-mannerisms. The same is its USP. After Kanpur, it is the second largest city of Uttar Pradesh.
Vajid Ali Shah as Nawab. Wajid Ali Shah succeeded to the throne of Awadh when its glory days were at its peak and passing.
Lucknow is a historic city, which is located on the banks of river Gomti. Hindi is the official language of the city, however, here the language finds its origin from Urdu. Traditionally, it was the capital of Awadh Pradesh and was administered by the Delhi Sultanate during Mughal rule. In the later stages, it was given to the Nawabs of Awadh.
After Lord Clive defeated the armies of the Nawab of Bengal, Nawab of Awadh as well as the Mughals, it went under the rule of the East India Company. In the year 1857, it went into the hands of the British Empire.
With the support of Maulana Abdul Bari of Firangi Mahal Lucknow, the Khilafat movement gained a lot of momentum and formed a solid footing in the city. In the year 1920, Lucknow was declared the provincial capital of the United Provinces, later known as Uttar Pradesh.
Culture and Cuisine:
Lucknow, which is considered to be The Golden City Of The East, has still kept its old -world charm absolutely intact, which is an appealing feature for the tourists. It is no exaggeration to call the capital of Uttar Pradesh, one of the finest cities of the country in terms of mannerisms and culture.
The culture of Lucknow has a great feel and is an amalgamation of complete sophistication, warmth, manners (etiquette), courtesy and a fine taste in standard of living. Many cultural traits of the city have become the landmarks of ‘Tehzeeb’.
A lot of importance here is given to dance, music, literature, Urdu poetry and drama. The Nawabs of Awadh are the ones who should be given a credit of this as they had an interest in every walk of life. They appreciated perfection in everything.
Lucknow’s cuisine, also known as Awadhi cuisine has a unique- Nawabi style. The major highlights are biryanis, kebabs and some breads (nahari-kulchas, roomali rotis and warqi parathas).
Kebabs actually a specialty, are of various types such as Tunde ke Kebabs, Kakori Kebabs, Shami Kebabs, Galawati Kebabs, Boti Kababs, Patili-ke-Kababs, Seekh Kebabs and Ghutwa Kababs. Lucknow can be called a paradise for food lovers.
Chikan is a traditional embroidery style from Lucknow, India. Literally translated, the word means embroidery.
Lucknow is extremely popular for Chikan and Lucknavi Zardozi. Both of these are two kinds of stylish and delicate Indian embroideries. The export of these rich materials, forms a significant part of the revenue to the city. There is a huge demand of both these handcrafted embroideries, not only in India but in overseas markets as well.
Along with this, the other famous industry is small scale kite-making industry. Other famous products of Lucknow are its ‘Ittars’ (perfumes) and ‘Kivam’ (a tobacco product). The markets of Lucknow are filled with other handicrafts such as silver and gold foil work, bone carving products and pottery.
Lucknow boasts of being home to various tourist attractions. Roomi gate, Bada Imambada, Shah Mina Shah, Tare Wali Kothi, Dilkusha, Khursheed Manzil, Satkhanda, Shahi Baoli, Nadan Mahal, Banarsi Bagh, Chattar Manzil are some of well-known attractions for tourists.
Best Time to Visit:
Although the city is flocked by a large number of tourists all round the year but the best time to visit Lucknow is between the months of October to March. This is the peak season in terms of tourism. The other months witness either scorching summers or extremely chilly winters.
How to Reach Lucknow:
Lucknow is well-connected by all three modes of transport and reaching here is quite easy:
a. By Air
Lucknow has its own independent airport. Flights to Lucknow operate from various important cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Ranchi etc.
b. By Rail
There are two main railway junctions, one is at Lucknow city center and the other one is at Charbagh (around 3 kms from the city center). Trains from all major cities halt at these stations.
c. By Road
The major highways that pass through Lucknow are Lucknow N.H. – 56., N.H. – 28 and N.H. – 25. It is well-connected to important cities like Allahabad, Delhi, Agra, Kanpur etc.
If you want to travel in style to city of tehzeeb, Nawaabs and Kebabs, do so with Maharajas’ Express The Indian Panorama itinerary. This luxury train tour lets to discover the rich heritage and royal legacy of Lucknow as would a royalty.