Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav Friday lashed out at the media for its criticism of the just-concluded Saifai Mahotsav. He claimed Rs 10 crore was spent on the 15-day event while a Hindi daily had put the figure at Rs 300 crore.
At a press conference, he alleged that Dainik Jagran published “false” reports about the expenses, as the Samajwadi Party (SP) had denied a Rajya Sabha nomination to the newspaper owner.
“One from (Dainik) Jagran had been a Rajya Sabha MP from the SP and was keen on re-nomination. We could not do it due to some reasons. If you don’t get a Rajya Sabha (seat), then Saifai Mahotsav becomes worth Rs 300 crore,”Akhilesh said.
He also alleged that “they (staff from Jagran) were caught gambling and beaten up during the previous regime”.
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The CM said “those who are writing that Rs 300 crore was spent on Saifai Mahotsav should seek an apology and action be taken against the person who wrote it.”
Dainik Jagran’s Uttar Pradesh editor Dileep Awasthi said he stood by the story. “We do stand by the report. Everybody carried it and the amount differed. It was Rs 200 crore for some electronic channels but not Rs 10 crore as claimed by CM Akhilesh Yadav,” Awasthi said.
On the allegations about denial of Rajya Sabha nomination to Dainik Jagran owner, he said: “Such personal attacks only belittles the office of Chief Minister.”
An angry Akhilesh also came down heavily on the electronic media. He singled out one English news channel, which, he said, had sent him a text message after showing a story on Saifai Mahotsav. “When I replied ‘I don’t watch your channel’, it was read out by the channel on air.”
Akhilesh added he took along journalist of an English news channel on his helicopter during election campaign, but the 30-minute story, which was assured to him, was never aired. “When I enquired, they said their marketing and sales team did not permit it.”
He even accused journalists of being keen on the Saifai event themselves. “Journalists came and sat on ground. Some of them were from Delhi. We issued passes, but they took along 10 people on one pass. Etawah district magistrate can confirm it. These journalists were themselves interested in programmes and even kept enquiring about the next item. We had strict police arrangement, else they would have forced their entry for autograph of the stars,” he claimed.
Akhilesh claimed that a political conspiracy cannot be ruled out over the negative coverage of Saifai Mahotsav in the media. “How was it done… everybody knows… some people are sitting among you,” he said.
Claiming that not more than Rs 10 crore was spent on Saifai Mahotsav and the state government’s contribution was only Rs one crore, he said: “The state government gives assistance to many such melas and mahotsavs.”
Akhilesh said wrestling, bicycle marathon, tennis ball cricket, panchayat sammelan, folk programmes and even children’s programmes were also held at the Saifai event.
He claimed that nobody showed Salman Khan visiting a hospital and offering help.
Stating that the media was unjustified in posing questions on Muzaffarnagar violence to the artistes who performed at Saifai Mahotsav, he said: “Someone even interviewed their (star’s) father. Why should they know about Muzaffarnagar? Ask me, I am the CM and it is SP government. I will answer all questions about Muzaffarnagar,” he said.
He said the media should also present the facts about the relief and compensation provided to victims of Muzaffarnagar riots. “It is the best so far after riots in the country,” he said.