Samajwadi Party's party in Saifai is not a party this time.
The political party's pet festival , Saifai Mahotsava, began at its president Mulayam Singh Yadav's birthplace-Saifai, 20 km from Etawah on Monday. By and large only Yadavs were there at the inauguration.
The party that is in a kind of disarray since the resignation by its General Secretary Amar Singh has its annual Saifai Mahotsava sans stars this time. It was Amar Singh's Bollywood and corporate connections that were largely responsible for the annual over-ten-day, star-studded event. The fest in all probability is star-stripped this time.
Those who graced the inauguration were-Mulayam Singh Yadav, bothers Ramgopal Yadav and Shivpal Yadav, son Akhilesh Yadav, nephew Dharmendra Yadav, and few others. Mulayam at inauguration said that the January 19 statewide agitation against the state and central government would be intense. He attacked the Congress saying that whenever Congress is in power, India's relations with its neigbhours sour. He criticized the central government's foreign policy and said that China is making attempts to dominate and even grabbled portions of India. There were indeed some cultural events-mostly folk like Barsane ki holi et al.
Saifai Mahotsava's used to be an altogether different story when it was held when Mulayam Singh Yadav was the chief minister. But even otherwise with Amar Singh by his side, the show always had some glitter sprinkled around. But things seem to have changed with Amar missing.
Though the news has it that despite everything, Amar Singh would be the chief guest on the January 24 closing ceremony and that both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav have invited him over. Or Amar Singh has communicated that he would be there. But only time would tell about the invitation and its acceptance.
This time, there have not been any announcements beforehand about stars. Earlier star-shows and guest list used to be publicized well in advance. Last year it was Sanjay Dutt, Major Tiwari, Jaya Bachchan, Jaya Prada and some performers like Arjun Rampal, Rakhi Sawant, Poonam Jatav as well. But this time there are none so far.
When asked, a party person defended: "No we have. Generally, the stars do not come on the first day. And we do have stars. Tonight, Kavita Podwal would perform a jagaran 'devotional songs all night through'."
Saifai, the village-turned-town since Mulayam Singh first became the chief minister, now has an airstrip, stadium (with better Astroturf than in Lucknow), or institutes of higher learning. It has a population of about 30,000. Even the permanent pandal (marquee) is actually a state-of-the-art engineer hangar bigger than a football field.
In the past people like APJ Abdul Kalam (as the President), Kumarmangalam Birla, Anil Ambani, and some more prominent industrialist and Amar's close friend Amitabh Bachchan had been to the fest. But this time it's all low-key. Among those who had performed at the festival earlier are-Celina Jaitley, Fardeen Khan, Abhijeet Sawant, Ila Arun, Alisha Chinaoy, Yanna Gupta, Akshya Kumar, Asha Bhonsle, Babul Suprio, Sudesh Bhonsle, Jagjit Singh, Birju Maharaj, Shiv Kumar Sharma, Amjad Ali, Hema Malini or Johnny Lever.
The Saifai Mahotsav, as it was originally conceived in 1997 was a rural festival for villagers in the districts around Etawah. It used to be organised by a dedicated band of youths led by Ranbir Singh. It used to be three-day affair with food stalls, farm stalls, handicrafts, haat (village market), nautaki (folk performaces) and dangal (wrestling matches). It was after Ranbir's untimely death that Mulayam gave it a face-lift and even renamed it as Ranbir Singh Saifai Mahotsav.
The festival would conclude on January 24 this time. The fest has been getting about 2 lakh rural visitors from nearby districts.