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Akhilesh faces Kumbh heat

Lucknow, Dec. 27: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav is being criticised over alleged shoddy arrangements for next month’s Mahakumbh by seers, many of whom have accused him of not doing enough while courting minorities with a slew of sops.

BJP leader Kesrinath Tripathi, who hails from Allahabad where the 45-day fair will begin on Makar Sankranti on January 14, compared the poor preparations to the “Commonwealth Games mess of 2010” and criticised the Akhilesh government for being “insensitive”.

“Not a single area is complete,” Tripathi, a former Assembly Speaker, said, adding the task of constructing a tent city that began in November last year is also not over. The site of the fair is the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, near Allahabad.

Officials said over three crore people were expected to attend the fair, organised once in 12 years.

Akhilesh was scheduled to visit the site last week but dropped the plan at the last minute, a no-show his critics have cited as a sign of his lack of concern.

But the chief minister’s aides insisted he is monitoring the preparations from Lucknow, and claimed he had requested his ministers and other VIPs not to visit the site as it might create law-and-order problems and stall work. Akhilesh, the aides said, is keen to see that Mahakumbh passes off peacefully and that the event is showcased as a spectacle for tourists with benefits for the state’s economy.

Apart from poor infrastructure — none of six new ghats to be built are ready, several paths are unfinished — discontent is brewing over allotment of space to monastic orders.

The Shankaracharya of Dwarka, Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, and his followers have complained of shabby treatment by fair authorities and accused them of withdrawing land allotted to their organisation, Vishwa Sanatan Dharma Parishad. A letter has also been sent to the President.

“The mess over the land allotment demonstrates the government’s inefficiency,” said Manoj Kumar Manasvi, an office-bearer of the Dharma Parishad. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has echoed the gripe.

The fair furore comes at a time the Akhilesh government has announced several schemes for minorities, including a request to the Congress-led UPA at the Centre to introduce reservation for Muslims based on population. Several Hindu leaders have denounced the proposal, part of the Congress theme during the campaign for the state polls earlier this year.

The Kumbh factor had dogged Akhilesh’s father, too. In early 2007, Mulayam Singh Yadav, then chief minister, visited the fair and took a dip. Many seers saw it as an attempt to win Hindu votes. Mayawati said he was “polluting the Ganga”. Mulayam lost to her months later.