At 38, he will be youngest Chief Minister of the most politically sensitive State

Mulayam Singh, whose Samajwadi Party won a thumping victory in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, has handed over the reins to his son Akhilesh Yadav, who was unanimously elected leader of the party's legislature wing on Saturday.

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At 38, Mr. Akhilesh Yadav will become the youngest Chief Minister of the country's most politically sensitive State, thumping the record for the youngest Chief Minister held by the outgoing Chief Minister, Mayawati, who first assumed office when she was 39 in 1995. He will take the oath of office and secrecy at a function to be held between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on March 15. The venue will be decided later.

After his election as leader of the Samajwadi Legislature Party, Mr. Yadav drove down to Raj Bhavan, met Governor B.L. Joshi and staked claim to form the government, handing him a list of 224 newly elected MLAs. He was accompanied by senior leaders Mohammad Azam Khan, Shivpal Singh Yadav and Ambika Chaudhary.

Many in the party feel that Mr. Akhilesh Yadav has won his spurs and is ready to step into his father's shoes, having revived the party's fortunes through the ‘kranti rath yatra,' which he launched on September 12 last year, and helped it score a landslide.

The Legislature Party meeting started at the party's headquarters around 11.30 a.m. and lasted an hour. The one-line proposal was moved by Mr. Khan and seconded by Mr. Akhilesh Yadav's uncle and Mr. Mulayam Singh's younger brother, Shivpal Singh Yadav. It was unanimously adopted. Mr. Mulayam Singh was present at the meeting, which was moderated by his cousin and national general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav and attended by all newly elected MLAs and MPs.

Talking to journalists after his election, Mr. Akhilesh Yadav said his government would not pursue politics of vendetta: the memorials built by the previous BSP government would not be disturbed. But, since these complexes possessed large space, a decision on building hospitals and institutions there would be taken later. He said the party's poll promises would be implemented in letter and in spirit. Maintenance of law and order would be the priority; strict action would be taken against officials who failed to crack down on anti-social elements.

Mr. Akhilesh Yadav said that though Mr. Mulayam Singh would focus his attention on national politics, he would play an important role in the State politics. Thanking the people for giving the party an absolute majority by rising above caste and religion, he said there would be no discrimination against anyone.

The name of Mr. Akhilesh Yadav for Chief Minister was doing the rounds ever since the party stormed back to power. While a large section of young MLAs and workers wanted him to become the Chief Minister, he maintained that “Netaji” (as Mr. Mulayam Singh is known) was the party's choice. Mr. Ram Gopal Yadav and senior leader Naresh Agarwal also backed him. In fact, Mr. Mulayam Singh himself had decided to give the charge to his son, but kept the cards close to his chest.