Photographs: Reuters Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
It may still not be official, yet it is now absolutely clear that Akhilesh Yadav will be the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
While the Samajwadi Party parliamentary board and state legislature party are to meet on Saturday morning to take the formal call, it is now final that father Mulayam Singh Yadav will pass the CM's baton to Akhilesh only.
At 38, Akhilesh would be the youngest chief minister of India's most populous state. Mayawati was 39, when she assumed the office as UP's 24th chief minister in 1995.
Akhilesh will be the state's 33rd CM when he gets sworn in on March 12.
Click here for more Realtime News on UP politics!Click NEXT to read further...
'Nothing would make me happier if Akhilesh dons CM's mantle'
Highly placed sources in Lucknow confirmed that a decision to forge Akhilesh as chief minister was taken at a closed door meeting of Mulayam's inner coterie Friday morning.
Subsequently, at an informal meeting with newly elected legislators, Mulayam is understood to have very discreetly conveyed that nothing would make him happier than letting Akhilesh don the chief minister's mantle this time.
Even though he was clearly reluctant to spell it out in as many words, this was the first time over the past three days since Samajwadi Party swept the UP poll that Akhilesh did not flatly deny the possibility of his elevation to the top job.
"Let the party take a formal decision tomorrow", he said in a spontaneous reaction to a "hearty congratulation" from this scribe.
The younger Yadav, who looks far younger than his age, remained surrounded by a huge battery of young MLAs, who were clearly all set to raise the pitch for his installation on the hot seat.
Many aspirants seeking inclusion in Akhikesh's first cabinet were also believed to have been hovering around him for the whole of Friday.
'Azam Khan gave up resistance after being offered speaker's chair'
Earlier during the day, when Akhilesh's name was thrown up for discussion at the informal meet, the response was overwhelming. Only a few feeble voices of dissent were raised.
But an astute Mulayam did not take much time to dilute these voices. Sources said that Mulayam managed to placate both his younger brother Shiv Pal Yadav and close confidante Azam Khan by making an offer that they could not refuse.
While Shiv Pal was assured the most lucrative of portfolios in the new cabinet, Khan was promised the prestigious slot of assembly speaker.
It is said that Khan was the most vocal and had clearly expressed his unwillingness to work under a 25- year younger Akhilesh.
He was however understood to have given up all the resistance after being offered the speaker's chair.