Saifai (UP): For people of Saifai, the native village of Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, it is like Diwali all over again.
Decked out in flowers and lights, buildings are wearing a bridal look for the celebration tomorrow of the 76th birthday of Mulayam, popularly known by the sobriquet of “netaji”. A cultural extravaganza, including a performance by Oscar- winning composer AR Rahman and his 300-member troupe, has been lined up as part of the three-day bash, which got off to a colourful start yesterday at Saifai, around 200km from state capital Lucknow.
This will be Rahman’s maiden performance in Saifai. Massive fireworks lit up the night sky as people made a beeline for the village to wish their leader a long life and pray for his good health. “Netaji’s ties with Saifai are emotional. He is a father figure, our godfather,” said Mahesh Yadav, an enthusiastic youth worker who was busy organising the grand show.
Arrangements have been made to shower rose petals on the SP supremo when he lands at the airstrip outside Saifai, where large-sized LED screens have been set up at vantage points to telecast live the razzmatazz birthday party. A 76-kg cake has been ordered to mark the occasion while mouth-watering Italian, Chinese and Thai dishes will be prepared by renowned chefs from Delhi and Mumbai to treat around one lakh guests from a wide spectrum of the society.
The guest list includes almost everybody who is somebody — from former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda to Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, and from Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan and Hrithik Roshan to business tycoons. President of Ranvir Singh Smriti Saifai Mahotsav and MP Dharmendra Yadav, who is looking after the preparations, said all arrangements are in place for the gala event.
The indoor athletic stadium, where the main function will be held, has been decked out in the SP colours of green and red while hundreds of welcome gates and huge hoardings have come up on all the roads leading to Saifai. Around 3,000 staff have been tasked with ensuring cleanliness while an equal number of security personnel from 15 districts have been deployed in and around the venue. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has already reached Saifai.
The grand show, however, has invited the disapproval of opposition parties with BJP and Congress describing the event as a wastage of public money. “50 of the 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh have been declared drought-hit; the money could have been distributed among the affected farmers,” said BJP spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak.
UP PCC spokesman Amarnath Agarwal, too, said that the show was a waste of public money. Uttar Pradesh Minister Azam Khan had last year organised a two-day celebration in Rampur to mark Mulayam’s 75th birthday. Mulayam had ridden on an imported Victorian-style ‘buggy’ for the Rampur bash, which had seen around 40 ministers gathering to take part in the costly festivities, fuelling criticism that was met with a caustic barb from Khan that Taliban and Dawood Ibrahim had provided funds for the event.