Rampur: Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav celebrated his 75th birthday by cutting a 75-feet -long cake at midnight at a grand event here.
Mulayam, who was wished among others by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Governor Ram Naik, attended a grand ceremony on Jauhar University premises and laid the foundation of a medical college on the occasion.
The SP chief who arrived here yesterday, along with his chief minister son Akhilesh and around 40 Uttar Pradesh ministers, to attend the two-day mega celebrations, said, "I have never received such a grand welcome in my life which (UP minister) Azam Khan and his brigade have accorded to me."
The "extravagant" celebrations, however, drew flak from several quarters with many questioning the source of funds. The criticism was met with a sarcastic response from Azam Khan that Taliban and Dawood Ibrahim provided funds for the event, which fuelled a controversy.
"Why does it matter where the money for celebrations is coming from? Some have come from Taliban, some from Abu Salem, some from Dawood (Ibrahim), some from terrorists...," Azam had said.
Later today, while addressing a gathering Mulayam tore into Jawaharlal Nehru for his post-Independence policies and said "Nehru's polices in the pre-Independence period were on the right track, but after Independence Nehru eschewed the path of socialism and youth welfare".
Invoking his political guru Ram Manohar Lohia who had said "there is a sea of difference between Nehru before Independence and Prime Minister Nehru", Mulayam told the gathering "during his regime conditions of poor and exploited started deteriorating... It is due to his faulty polices that about 25 core people do not get even two square meals a day".
Around 3 pm, Mulayam and other dignitaries who attended the birthday celebrations left Rampur, the home turf of Azam Khan.
Addressing the gathering on the Jauhar University
premises, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his policies. "Now open and hidden agendas existed to create divide between different communities and it is only the Samajwadi Party and its polices which can foil such nefarious attempts," Akhilesh said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi wished Mulayam on his birthday and said he prayed for his long and healthy life. "On Mulayam Singh Yadavji's birthday I extend my greetings to him and pray that he is blessed with a long and healthy life," Modi tweeted.
UP Governor Ram Naik also extended birthday greetings to Yadav and wished him a "happy, long and active life".
The mega two-day birthday bash was organised for Mulayam in Rampur which began yesterday, triggering a controversy.
Mulayam rode an imported Victorian-style 'buggy' (horse-driven carriage) and around 40 ministers gathered for his bash.
Thousands of Azam's supporters accompanied the 'buggy' carrying Mulayam, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and minister Azam Khan, as it proceeded towards the Jauhar University. The buggy is stated to have been imported from London.
BSP and BJP had slammed the Samajwadi Party for the "extravagant" celebrations.
"Mulayam Singh Yadav is celebrating his birthday on the suffering of the people of the state," BSP leader Sudhindra Bhadoria had said.
"Such extravagant celebration of the socialist leader is a mockery of socialism... Taking out a procession on a 'buggy' brought from London is a humiliation of the poverty stricken population of Uttar Pradesh," BJP spokesman Manish Misra had said and demanded that the details of the expenditure on the grand celebrations be made public.
However, Samajwadi Party had defended the celebrations with party spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia saying Mulayam is the "tallest leader" of the country and that the people are celebrating his struggle.
Meanwhile, Mulayam's birthday was celebrated as Samata Diwas across Uttar Pradesh. Samajwadi Party spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary said that various programmes, including fruit distribution in hospitals, were organised on the occasion.
He said Mulayam, who arrived in Lucknow from Rampur this afternoon, cut a cake at the party headquarters in the presence of senior ministers and office-bearers.