A horse carriage flown in from England, flowers from the Netherlands, 75-foot-long fresh fruit cake, Sufi singers and fireworks – Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s 75th birthday was one grand party.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, along with Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav (his son), cuts a cake on the occassion of his birthday in Lucknow on Saturday. (PTI Photo)
When the clock struck midnight, this quiet historic town erupted in celebrations. Fireworks lit up the night sky as Yadav, surrounded by party colleagues, cheered on by chief minister son Akhilesh Yadav and thousands of supporters, cut the huge cake in the gymnasium of the Mohammad Ali Jauhar University.
Renowned Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans broke into a song, extending wishes to Netaji, as Yadav is popularly known. The birthday boy offered the first slice of the extensively decorated cake with messages iced in Hindi to the host of the evening — cabinet minister Azam Khan, the local MLA and the university chancellor.
...but a little confusion! Banners with contradicting age of Mulayam, near his party office in Lucknow. (PTI Photo)
In fact, the celebrations, planned to the last detail by Khan, a close aide of Yadav and the party’s Muslim face, began Friday.
Yadav went around the town greeting party supporters in the buggy, with Khan, Akhilesh and younger brother Shivpal Yadav, a minister in the UP cabinet, giving him company.
Samajwadi Party workers celebrate Mulayam's birthday in Allahabad. (PTI Photo)
Rampur, about 320km from the state capital Lucknow, was decked in flowers and welcome gates with birthday messages set up all over the town. All major buildings lit up as the sun went down.
Political opponents have questioned the “extravagant celebrations” and the source of its funding. Responding to the criticism, Khan said the buggy was a present from his England based-nephew who bought it for Rs 70 lakh. Responding to a query on Friday, an angry Khan had said the money came from the Taliban and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
Mulayam, with son Akhilesh, rides a Royal Buggy, brought from London, at an event to celebrate his birthday in Rampur on Friday. (PTI Photo)
“Azamji organised such a grand function that I can never forget. This is a huge burden on me. The faith you have shown in me, I will never breach this trust,” Yadav said at a rally.
Akhilesh said the celebrations were historic. “Such a historic birthday celebration is unprecedented and Azam Khanji made it possible. We saw crackers burning here and some people burning on TV,” he said, taking a jibe at the critics.
Schoolchildren at an event to celebrate Mulayam's birthday, in Rampur on Friday. (PTI Photo)
(with agency inputs)