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Thrown at the deep end, Akhilesh will HAVE to survive

Last updated on: March 10, 2012 19:19 IST

Thrown at the deep end, Akhilesh will HAVE to survive

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Akhilesh Yadav is acutely conscious of the fact that he has to take along senior leaders in the party even as he tries to infuse new blood, new technology and new ways into the state government, says Neerja Chowdhury

The last vestiges of resistance within the Samajwadi Party crumbled as 39-year-old Akhilesh Yadav was chosen as the leader of its Legislature Party and the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.

This is as should be, for he was the party's face in the just concluded poll campaign, and took the SP to a thrilling victory.

Surprisingly, Akhilesh will not be sworn in till March 15 and the media savvy CM-designate, who is an MP, is expected to attend Parliament on Monday along with his father Mulayam Singh Yadav for the President's address. And the event is bound to create a huge splash in the media. 

The youngest CM-to-be  in the country's largest state will have to contend with huge challenges in the weeks ahead. His most difficult task will be grappling with the DNA of his own party and controlling its cadre.

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Image: Akhilesh Yadav


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He will have to deal with rowdy elements

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He got a foretaste of it in the hours after victory, as party workers went on the rampage, taking journalists hostage in Jhansi and burning down the factory of a Bahujan Samaj Party leader in Ambedkarnagar. It was as if they were finding a much-needed release after being kept on a tight leash during Mayawati's reign.

The tone for his rule will be set by how he handles the law and order scenario, having promised that there was no question of going back to the rule of goondagardi associated with Mulayam Singh's last stint in office.

In the last few weeks, UP saw the humble, accessible and cool side of Akhilesh during the poll campaign as he reached out to people and rubbed shoulders with them, lending his ear to hear their woes. But it was when he determinedly prevented "don" D P Yadav's entry into the party that Akhilesh demonstrated that he was no pushover.

Now, besides his affability, he will be called to demonstrate a firmness with rowdy elements -- and with the bureaucracy -- and undertake the difficult task of "genetically modifying" his party.

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Image: D P Yadav


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SP will continue to support the Congress

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Though his father Mulayam SinghYadav has for the moment managed to bring around those opposed to his anointment like Azam Khan -- who has reportedly been offered a package of the Speaker's post and ministerial berths for his followers -- and uncle Shiv Pal Yadav, the resistance from the old guard will continue to dog Akhilesh's steps, particularly if and when he starts to make mistakes. 

He will also have to face an aggressive BSP -- it polled only around 3 per cent lesser votes than the SP though it was a whopping 144 seats behind it -- and the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.

Though there is much hype about the possibility of a mid-term election, Akhilesh had indicated that the SP would continue to support the Congress at the Centre. It makes sense for Mulayam Singh Yadav -- at least for the time being -- to want his son to consolidate his position in Lucknow before taking on new challenges.

Mulayam Singh can also be expected to leverage the party's position in Delhi vis-a-vis the United Progressive Alliance to make things easier for Akhilesh. It is not without interest that the Congress, which initially went to town attacking the newly elected SP for the violence that had erupted in the state, toned down its onslaught very quickly.

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Image: SP workers celebrate the party's victory
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

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Akhilesh did not take the sole credit

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Besides law and order, Akhilesh Yadav will have to demonstrate that he means business on the promises he made during the campaign, and he will have to move towards their delivery in the first six months itself, given the hopes he has raised, if he is to stay ahead of anti-incumbency. 

If there was one issue that fired the youth -- and made a difference to the SP's tally -- it was the promise of the Rs 1,000 monthly berozgari bhatta (unemployment dole), which had led to young people queuing up at employment exchanges at the crack of dawn to get their names registered. 

While as the party's chief campaigner he could happily announce a host of freebies, as chief minister he will have to contend with the reality check of where the money is going to come from.

What works for Akhilesh Yadav is his disarming humility and the political sophistication he has displayed in recent months. Though the SP victory would not have been possible without him, he did not take the sole credit for it or betray a sign, even remotely, that he was interested in the top job.

Knowing the resistance to him from the old guard of the party, he kept reiterating that the party wanted his father -- Netaji -- to be chief minister.

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Image: Akhilesh with father Mulayam Singh Yadav


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He will try to infuse new technology

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He has been acutely conscious of the fact that he has to take along senior leaders in the party even as he tries to infuse new blood, new technology, new ways that he brought in the party, into the state government now.

When he took over as the president of the UP unit of the Samajwadi Party in 2009, following the party's less than satisfactory performance in the general elections, his elevation was not welcomed by many of the senior leaders in the party, and it was viewed as a coup pulled off by Amar Singh.

Akhilesh himself admitted that the idea was Amar Singh's and had an interesting anecdote related to how it came about.

"One day, Amar Singh was at our home. One of the children had put on certain clothes and a long wig. Amar Singh asked, 'whose clothes are you wearing?" My daughter replied, 'Hannah Montana's'. He did not know what the children were talking about and we told him about Hannah Montana."

(Hannah Montana was an American TV serial on Disney channel, about a girl who was a teenage schoolgirl during the day and doubled up as a famous pop singer at night. It had spawned many Hannah Montana products like clothes, wigs, toys and the serial had a global audience of 200 million.)

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Image: Amar Singh


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Akhilesh has reached out to his opponents

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That day Amar Singh urged Netaji to "change the president of the party," as a generational change was called for. 

Netaji spoke to Janeshwar Mishra, on the phone, and with the three of them agreeing, "it was almost the view of the Parliamentary Board".
 
In recent months, Akhilesh has also tried to reach out to his opponents. A senior Congress leader said recently that Akhilesh spotted him by the roadside in Lucknow, stopped his car, came over and touched his feet.

Interestingly, the SP's poll ad campaign -- created by Akhilesh and his team of "backroom" boys comprising some who jave been now elected as MLAs, and other young people -- was futuristic, about what the party intended to do, and did not concentrate only on Mayawati's mistakes. 

Akhilesh Yadav's rise as CM marks the onset of a generational change in UP's politics. Thrown at the deep end, he will now be compelled to swim and survive and, hopefully, do more, given the millions of hopes pinned on him.


Image: Akhilesh Yadav


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