After taking over as Uttar Pradesh chief minister in March 2012, Akhilesh Yadav has made 46 trips in the state government's aircraft to Saifai, his ancestral village in Etawah district.
According to the civil aviation department's reply to an RTI query filed by The Indian Express, Akhilesh's uncle and Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Shivpal Yadav used the state government's planes for 51 trips to Saifai in the same period. Both Akhilesh and Shivpal usually returned to Lucknow on the same day.
In fact, Saifai village, with a population of 7,141, has become a favoured destination for top state government officials too in the last 21 months.
From March 15, 2012 to November 10, 2013, Chief Secretary Jawed Usmani flew to Saifai three times, the Secretary to Chief Minister (Anita Singh, Shambhu Singh Yadav, Alok Kumar — he was shunted out last month) went five times, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister Rakesh Garg three times, Principal Secretary (Medical Education) J P Sharma (he retired on Tuesday) once, Assembly Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey once and former Advocate General SP Gupta (he resigned on October 18) once — all in state government planes.
Saifai village falls in Jaswant Nagar Assembly constituency which is represented by Shivpal, and Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency which is represented by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
In September, the Akhilesh cabinet decided to hand over the Saifai airstrip, along with some other airstrips in the state, to the Airports Authority of India for developing an airport there. The state PWD has already allocated Rs 90 lakh for repair of the boundary walls of the Saifai airstrip.
Recently, Akhilesh faced flak for taking time out to attend the ongoing Saifai Mahotsav instead of visiting the riot victims in the relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts.
Last week, an IAS officer who was posted as sports director was suspended for allegedly delaying the construction of a swimming pool in Saifai.
Earlier, a CAG audit report had rendered the expenditure of Rs 48.04 crore on expansion and upgradation of the airstrip at Saifai during the previous Mulayam Singh Yadav government as "injudicious" due to "under-utilisation of the upgraded airstrip".