From ministers to legislators to celebrities to bureaucrats to lower-rung officials, everyone seems to have checked into Saifai, an otherwise ‘tehsil’ of Etawah district in the thick of the Uttar Pradesh’s badlands, for the Yadav big bash. Sharat Pradhan / Rediff.com reports.
With all roads leading to Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s native village, Saifai for an extravagant celebration of his grand-nephew Tej Pratap Singh’s engagement with Rashtriya Janta Dal supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav’s daughter Raj Laxmi on Saturday, the swanky village appeared to have turned into Uttar Pradesh’s new capital.
Besides the fact that personalities like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and celebrities like megastar Amitabh Bachchan made it a point to take time off their hectic schedules to attend what was supposed to be a private family ceremony, the entire UP government seemed to have moved from Lucknow to Saifai, which is otherwise just a ‘tehsil’ of Etawah district in the thick of the state’s badlands.
While Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was there as a part of the family and Tej's uncle, almost each of UP’s 60 ministers and all of the ruling Samajwadi Party’s 16 Lok Sabha and Rajya MPs and 231 MLAs had converged to Saifai well ahead of the event.
Akhilesh's uncle and UP's multi-portfolio minister, Shivpal Yadav who was at the venue with a huge entourage of officials from various departments under him was visible in full swing, while his other uncle and the party's leader in Rajya Sabha Ram Gopal Yadav was also around with some powerful bureaucrats in his round-the-clock attendance.
The state’s top administrative machinery as well as those belonging to the highest echelons of the police were also camping in the village, where the existing high-class guest houses built by successive SP governments, were not enough to accommodate everyone.
Luxury Swiss cottages were put up on the sprawling ground where the Yadav clan holds its annual cultural event, Saifai Mahotsav, which too attracts the who’s who of UP politics as well as celebrities from Bollywood.
Media persons and middle-rung officials had to remain content with accommodation in distant Etawah or Mainpuri towns, where government inspection bungalows and guest houses were packed with ministers.
It was another matter that the officials found a convenient alibi to explain their presence.
“We are here in our personal capacity because we have been invited for the function,” said a senior IAS officer, who could be seen zipping in and out of the venue in his blue beacon-fitted official car.
Since most VIPs had chosen to park themselves in or around Saifai from Friday evening itself -- the engagement was scheduled for Saturday morning -- all roads coming to Saifai from different directions remained crowded.
The prime minister’s visit made it even more difficult for those who took the risk to reach there on Saturday.
Reports said that the chartered plane carrying Amitabh Bachchan had to be diverted to Lucknow as the air space above Saifai was blocked for the VVIP movement.
Eventually, special permission was granted for the landing of his aircraft at the Saifai airport, built by Mulayam Singh Yadav during his last stint as chief minister.
Bachchan reached Saifai only after the prime minister’s departure, but in an apparent bid to shift the blame from the VVIP movement, he passed the buck to “poor visibility”, which according to his own tweet, led him to first land in Lucknow.
While thousands of cops were detailed to take care of the security and to regulate traffic movement, hordes of officials were seen busy taking care of every arrangement for the mega event.
Chefs from the best of hotels in Delhi and Lucknow were around to take care of the multi-cuisine catering, which unconfirmed sources claimed, had been arranged for 1,25,000 people that included locals and party supporters from every nook and corner of the state.
Who would be footing bill for what was supposedly a “family affair” could be anybody’s guess.