The good news for Akhilesh Yadav is that his party has won enough seats to form the next government in Uttar Pradesh . What is better is that senior leaders of Samajwadi Party have now come around the heir apparent to acknowledge how he turned the verdict from the electorate of UP so decisive this time.
But the best is yet to come. When the party meets on Wednesday, the 38-year-old “chhote netaji” could win a surprise nomination for the top job in India’s most populous and politically crucial state, although his father and party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav so far remains the official choice for UP’s next CM.
Tuesday’s results underscore how the country’s political landscape may be acquiring a new character. Voters are willing to go beyond caste and religion to rally behind young leaders who can speak the language of new India, but also connect to those left out of the transformational journey of this 1.2-bn-plus nation.
On his part, the suave, media-savvy, engineer-turned-politician has always maintained that only his father, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, can rightfully claim the chief minister's job. On Tuesday, as the results started flashing on television channels, he reiterated the same stance, although with a tone that was less definitive.
“The party, and everyone in the party, has the view that netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) should become the chief minister,” he said. “The party’s legislators will meet tomorrow and elect the next CM.”
A large constituency within SP, however, would like to see Akhilesh in the driver's seat not just to run the government but to guide the party to Lok Sabha elections in 2014 or earlier. Mulayam too would want to hand over, but he can’t propose his son’s name for SP is a party that claims to follow a socialist ideology. There is speculation that a senior leader, someone like Azam Khan, could be roped in to propose the junior Yadav’s name as the next CM.
Khan, who was reinducted into SP over a year ago, has been the party’s face among the Muslims of UP. His return would seem to have helped the party consolidate its support among Muslims and thus win them away from BSP in a big way.