Lucknow: Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Saturday inaugurated `Saifai Mahotsava`, a cultural festival held every year in his native village in Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh.
The 17-day event, which will see performances by Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, ghazal singer Peenaz Masani and several Bollywood stars, was declared open after Yadav paid obeisance to Lord Hanuman and performed a havan.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, son of the SP chief, was scheduled to attend the inauguration but could not make it, an official said. He was likely to reach Saifai village later in the evening.
Like in the past, Saifai Mahotsav, which has been held for the last 18 years, has elicited criticism of the Yadav family-controlled Samajwadi Party for their alleged extravagance and indifference towards the needy.
Outgoing UP BJP president Laxmikant Bajpai on Friday said the Yadavs should be busy arranging relief for drought-hit farmers of the state rather than arranging the festival.
The drought this year has affected as many as 50 of the state`s 75 districts.
Critics have also accused the Yadavs of using public money in what they regard as a private event.
Thousands of security personnel, sniffer dogs, bomb disposal squads and CCTV cameras are in place in and around Saifai owing to the stream of VIPs expected to attend the festival.