Amid festivity and celebrations across Uttar Pradesh on his 76th birthday, a cheerful Mulayam Singh Yadav did not hide his affection and warmth for his son and chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav, on Sunday.
The rare public praise from the Samajwadi Party patriarch, a strong critic of his son, came at a function in the sprawling Janeshwar Mishra Park (JMP), Gomti Nagar.
“I am very happy to see that Akhilesh has developed a world-class park as a tribute to late Janeshwar Mishra, who was also his mentor. No other political party has done so much for the people and development,” he said.
For his part, Akhilesh remarked that all those who were pulled up by his father had made their mark in life.
An electrifying performance by AR Rahman and his 300-member troupe set the tone for the 76th birthday celebrations at the Saifai stadium on Saturday.
“Netaji, Netaji,” chorused the crowd of around 30,000 when Mulayam cut a 76-kg birthday cake. “Mulayam Singh tum jiyo hazaro saal,” they sang. The Yadav clan, including Akhilesh and his wife Dimple, cheered and clapped on the stage.
Eyes rolled when Mulayam offered a piece of the cake to friend-turned-foe-turned-friend Amar Singh.
Then there were whispers about the absence of controversial minister Azam Khan from the event. Khan had hosted Mulayam’s 75th birthday party in his hometown Rampur, where the SP chief rode a special horse cart imported from London.
Not in a mood to lose any opportunity to take a dig at the expelled SP leader, Amar Singh, Khan on Sunday said “when a storm approaches it also brings along garbage”.
Another prominent absentee was RJD chief Lalu Prasad, whose daughter has married Mulayam’s grandson.
The Congress hit out at the ruling party for the “ostentatious” display of wealth . “Spending crores of rupees on a three-day cultural extravaganza to celebrate the 76th birthday of the party supremo was uncalled for,” party leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.