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What did Akhilesh’s press conference defending the Saifai event accomplish ?




When the Prime Minister did a press conference a few days ago, at the end of the press conference, it was hard to figure out whether there was anything that had happened, except for it being the 3rd and last press conference by the Prime Minister. Any question that was difficult, the PM either ignored the question or gave a canned non-controversial answer. The end question that was left unstated was: when it was going to be such a standard question and answer session, what was the need and why did the party actually agree to the PM doing the press conference. It did not get him any new respect or forgiveness, in fact it was another occasion for the citizens of the country to remember that he and his Government were indeed the most corrupt Government in the country and had pushed the economy into a slow-growth regime.
It stands to reason that when politicians come before the press when they are in a weak situation, they should think twice. And when it is to criticize the press in what is not a clear situation, their speeches are seen with a lot of disbelief; and that is what seems to be happening in the state of Uttar Pradesh and its leaders recently. The plight of the refugees in the Muzaffarnagar region has caused a lot of shame in the country with even the Supreme Court warning the UP Government to ensure that the refugees get relief. However, for the UP Government, for some reason, the priority is over removal of the refugees from these camps, filing cases against those who are in camps located on Government land; and the UP Government has now been claiming that it has done a lot for the refugees and nobody could have done any better.
In the middle of all this happened the Saifai cultural event, which is something that has been happening for some years now. The difference this time was that this time the media started to highlight the sheer neglect of even the basic needs of the refugees compared with the amount of money spent on the cultural event. And there was a lot of money spent. Starts such as Madhuri Dixit, Salman Khan, Alia Bhat, Mallika Sherawat, and many others were flown on chartered flights to the festival and performed there, and the total amount of money involved is bound to be several crores. There was an incredible amount of criticism of the Chief Minister as well as the stars for lack of sensitivity, for spending so much money and so much wastage when there was such distress happening in Muzaffarnagar.
The stars also really did not care, although Salman and Madhuri could not ignore the searing criticism for being a part of such excesses, and came out with a bland statement that they do care and were donating money for surgeries and for equipment. And since they were performers, one should not really question them too much. However, with the cultural event coming to an end, Akhilesh finally decided that he had enough of this criticism and sought to reply through a press conference. The problem in this case was that what he came out to do before the media was to state:
– This is an ongoing cultural event and hence there was no basis for challenging this, especially since such festivals were funded as a part of the budget
– The media was making too much of all this, and the media has been wrong before; I will point out specific problems from previous cases by the media unless they quit torturing me
– The stars do not know anything about Muzaffarnagar and the Chief Minister should have been questioned, not these stars
– And anyhow, we have done everything we can do for the riot victims and it is not our fault that they are not meeting the conditions for getting relief
I really don’t believe that Akhilesh got any public support after this conference, and one can expect that parts of his conference will be retained on public networks. I am anyhow not a SP supporter, but after going through this press conference, the over-riding image was of a corrupt and arrogant Chief Minister who could not care less about what other people go through, and who can behave with a level of unstated threats that is very unbecoming of the Chief Minister of the largest state in India.




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