Akhilesh Yadav, who scripted the Samajwadi Party’s spectacular victory in the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, is seen as its modern face who gave it an image makeover.
Samajwadi Party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav was always seen as a party of the old mindset in a state whose politics is dominated by caste and religious issues.
With his father said to be not in the best of health, Mr. Akhilesh, 38, took on the role of the party’s chief campaigner and gave it a new dynamism talking of development and eschewing personal attacks against rivals.
One of the important accomplishments of his was that he played a leading role in shedding SP’s image of being anti-English and anti-computers and also in denying tickets to candidates with criminal antecedents.
Born on July 1, 1973, Mr. Akhilesh studied at the Military School in Dholpur, Rajasthan, and then acquired a degree in civil environment engineering from the Mysore University.
Mr. Akhilesh finished Masters in environmental engineering from the University of Sydney, Australia, in 1998 and was contemplating taking up water pollution projects when his father and three times Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav drafted him into politics. He cut his teeth early in politics.
He had faith in the party’s gritty electoral fight to remove the BSP from power; personally that translated into a 10,000-km yatra, 800 rallies in UP over the last six months and a systematic attempt at an image makeover for his Samajwadi Party, all of which paid off.
Mr. Akhilesh has been high on visibility in these elections.
The red Gandhi cap, white kurta pyjama and black sleeveless jacket have been ubiquitous as he dashed to every corner of the state.
He was 27 when he entered the Lok Sabha first, winning from Kannauj in 2000, when his father vacated the seat having won two — Mainpuri and Kannauj. He has been the Kannauj MP since.
In this assembly polls, from ticket distribution to managing party campaigns, Akhilesh was seen in decisive position indicating his future role since the start of electioneering.
After he denied entry to DP Yadav in the party, he appeared at a meeting in Rampur with senior party leader Mohammad Azam Khan when his father gave the message that Akhilesh’s decision is final.
The credit of SP getting majority on 224 seats in the House of 403 was given by the party to Mr. Akhilesh, who trusted youths to create a network to oust BSP.
As Chief Minister, Mr. Akhilesh’s skill would be under test in fulfilling promises made in the party manifesto which is not going to be an easy task.
It would be seen how he manages to provide tablets and laptops to high school and intermediate passouts, doling out un-employment allowance which would cause excessive burden to the state exchequer.
The party has for long had an image of being lax in tackling lawlessness and Akhilesh has a tough task on hand in dealing with the issue given the background of the militant image of SP workers, especially at a time when violent incidents, which have broken out after the party came to power, were attributed to them.
He has started with an assurance that the party government would not tolerate lawlessness and will tackle it with an iron hand.
Despite being aware of the power he wields in SP, Mr. Akhilesh always presented himself as a modest young man.One of the challenges he faces will be in his dealings with the party seniors who maybe upset at the sudden transition taking place in it.
From 2009 onwards, Mr. Mulayam had started giving signals that he was grooming Akhilesh when he was made in charge of shortlisting party candidates for the 2012 assembly polls.
All those who approached Mr. Mulayam were referred to Mr. Akhilesh with their documents. Leaders like Ram Gopal and Shivpal were systematically kept out of the exercise.
By early 2010, SP had announced its first list of candidates for the assembly polls.
On the evening of March 6 when the results were announced, Mulayam drafted Akhilesh to thank the people of UP for bringing SP to power. Barring old faithful Rajendra Chaudhury — state unit spokesperson — Akhilesh was flanked by members of his youth team.