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EXCLUSIVE: 'This was one of the toughest elections for us'

Last updated on: March 4, 2012 21:46 IST

Will Mulayam abdicate CM's chair for son Akhilesh?

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Sharat Pradhan

Having completed a grueling election campaign across Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav is now back in Lucknow eagerly awaiting the verdict of the people. In an exclusive interview with rediff.com's Sharat Pradhan, he shares his strategy and outlines the factors that went in favour of his party in this election.

Will Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav abdicate the coveted chair of Uttar Pradesh chief minister in favour of his son Akhilesh Yadav, in case the party gets a chance to form the next government in the country's most populous state?

 

This question was being hotly debated in the political circles of Uttar Pradesh ever since Mulayam's close confidante and cousin Ram Gopal Yadav spelt it out in an interview on Saturday that Akhilesh could be considered for the top job here.

 

''We cannot ignore the fact that Akhilesh did put in a lot of hard work in the party's election campaign in the state. Therefore, if our party were to come to power, I would personally be very happy to see Akhilesh as chief minister," Ram Gopal Yadav told a media person in New Delhi.

He, however, hastened to add, "But of course, such a decision has to be taken by the SP legislature party or our parliamentary board."

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'... Papa hi jaane, banenge CM woh ya main'

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Meanwhile, 39-year-old Akhilesh, who returned to Lucknow on Friday after drawing curtains on the poll campaign is very clear that the decision would be taken by none other than his father.

After being bombarded with the same question again and again, Akhilesh found a novel way to convey his view by showing a video clip of the popular TV puppet show Gustakhi Maaf, which in a parody of a popular Aamir Khan number Papa Kehte hain bada naam karega, spelt out everything.

The punch line -- BSP ka na to ab raj rahega, aur na Maya ke sir pe taj rahega. Magar ye bas papa hi jaane, banenge CM woh ya main (Neither will BSP rule not will Mayawati have the crown on her head, only my father will know who will be CM, him or me) -- said it all.

What was also being speculated is that Mulayam could get installed and stay in office for some time before stepping down and handing over the baton to his son, whom, insiders say, he is very keen to formally install as the successor.

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'My father took the rath to oust haath; I went after haathi'

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Even as stories were doing the rounds that some state bureaucrats had already started seeking audience with not only his father but also with him, Akhilesh flatly denied meeting anyone.

"No one has called on me. These are rumours being floated unnecessarily," he claimed in his first exclusive interview to rediff.com after returning home from a nearly two-month long poll campaign,

Looking relaxed and well-rested after hectic touring, Mulayam junior, who looks far younger than his age and certainly more soft-spoken than his wrestler-turned-politician father, seemed more interested in talking about his rath yatra or helicopter sorties that took him to as many as 386 of UP's 402 assembly constituencies.

"When I told my father that I proposed to set out on a rath yatra of the state in the same manner as he had done 25 years ago in 1987-88, he did not appear quite amused. But no sooner than I assured him that just as he had ousted the haath (hand, implying Congress), I would dethrone the haathi (elephant, implying BSP) from the political scene in UP, he gave me his aashirvaad (blessings) to go ahead," recalled Akhilesh.

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'I made about 201 helicopter landings in less than 2 months'

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"What boosted my morale was the resounding response on the very first day (September 12, 2011) of the yatra that I undertook from Lucknow to Kanpur; the short distance of 82 km took me a good ten-and-a-half hours to cover because there were surging crowds at every village along the route," he said.

And his urge to reach out and connect to the masses took him deep into the backwaters of every district.

"I chose not to limit myself to the district headquarters, but to travel deeper into every constituency," he said.

While the first three months were spent travelling on his 'rath', he switched over to the helicopter from January.

"Once the election was on, I got on to a helicopter on which I made about 201 landings over a period of less than two months," he disclosed.

And those who have been on his campaign trail know how he invariably identifies his partymen by their first names.

Asked how he manages that, considering that the gigantic size of the party organisation in a state that could be the world's seventh largest country, the young Yadav shoots back, "well, it is thanks to my father from whom I have inherited this; haven't you seen him addressing most party workers by name even at this age?"

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Tags: Yadav , Lucknow , Kanpur

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'I never made personal allegations'

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He claims to have also been particular about ensuring his accessibility to all and sundry.

"Ever since the responsibility of the state organisation was entrusted upon me, I made it a point to spend time in the party office on a day basis to make my self available to every single party worker," he said.

 

But what about the politics of confrontation that his father always practiced?  

"As far as I am concerned, when I told him that I wanted to desist from making any personal attacks during the poll campaign, he was very happy and promptly gave me his nod," said Akhilesh, while pointing out, "and you can see that all through this campaign, I refrained from any vitriolic against any political leader."

 

On being reminded about his entire party's attack on Mayawati and her style of functioning, he clarifies, "We were targeting her style of governance because of the rampant corruption and the central government for the price rise and financial irregularities. But I never made personal allegations against anybody and that was my USP."

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'This was one of the toughest elections for us'

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And didn't the party face any fund crunch, as was widely perceived after the exit of Amar Singh, who was rated as the key fund-raiser? 

"People are free to draw their own conclusions. But thankfully, we never faced any such crisis. Our requirements were not very high and help came from the most surprising quarters so we managed a smooth sail."

 

While conceding, "this was one of the toughest elections for us", Akhilesh was quick to point out, "but what came to our advantage was the strong anti-incumbency of the Mayawati regime, the failures of the Congress-led UPA government as well as BJP's politics of religion."

And hastened to add, "That was the reason we have been seen as the only viable and effective alternative to the BSP."



Tags: BJP , UPA , BSP , Amar Singh , Akhilesh

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