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Growing up in a small town in Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh wanted to become an IAS officer.
Chasing this dream, he left his home at Mehdawal town in Sant Kabir Nagar district and came to Delhi in 2009.
On Sunday, 30-year-old Akhilesh Pati Tripathi was elected MLA on an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ticket from the national capital’s Model Town assembly seat.
Tripathi’s hometown, 250km east of Lucknow, erupted in celebrations.
“So many youngsters from this backward town of eastern UP migrate to Delhi and Mumbai in search of petty jobs,” said Ravindra Gupta, who runs a provision store in Mehdawal.
“But rarely do they bring laurels like Akhilesh has. It’s a feat accomplished by an aam aadmi (common man), who is one of us.”
Son of a retired schoolteacher, Tripathi attended school in Mehdawal and went on to graduate from PCC College, Allahabad. He then completed his postgraduation from Allahabad University.
He then left for Delhi to prepare for the civil services examination.
Tripathi cleared the preliminary and main IAS exams twice, but failed to clear the interview.
But failure did not bog him down. Soon, Tripathi became part of the anti-corruption movement launched by Anna Hazare.
He became a volunteer and campaigned with Arvind Kejriwal to motivate the youth to join the movement.
Later, when Kejriwal launched the Aam Aadmi Party, Tripathi became its full-time member and led agitations on public issues at various localities of Delhi. He was given a ticket from Model Town assembly seat.
His rivals were stalwarts like Ashok Goyal of the BJP and Kanwar Karan Singh of the Congress.
And yet Akhilesh defeated his nearest rival Goyal by a margin of 10,000 votes.
But it was a hard-earned victory for Tripathi – coming as he was from a non-political background and a party that was barely a year-old.
So he went the extra mile to gain the confidence of people.
“I focussed on the slums of Lalbagh, Kishorebagh, Kishorenagar, Kamlanagar and Gulabi Bagh areas, and launched agitation on the public issues,” he said.
In fact, Tripathi began living in the Lalbagh slum to get to know the ground realities.
“Getting ration was a major problem for the slum-dwellers. I raised the issue with the Delhi administration officers and launched a movement against the ration mafia. The henchmen of the mafia severely beat me up. I was hospitalised for a week.”
After being discharged from the hospital, however, Tripathi continued the fight.
“I was able to break the hold of the ration mafia. It proved to be a turning point for me as slum-dwellers rallied behind me,” he said.
But Tripathi realised that taking on politicians was not easy – when he raised the issue of the rape and murder of a girl at Rana Pratap Bagh area during the election campaign.
Congress and BJP leaders alleged that Tripathi himself was involved in the girl’s murder and he was put behind bars.
However, the Aam Aadmi Party rallied relentlessly behind Tripathi and he was released after 12 days.
Though his family is proud of him today, they were not happy when Tripathi had first joined the Anna movement.
“We thought he had deviated from his path,” said his brother Shiva Pati, who lives in Mehdawal along with father Abhay Nandan Tripathi and brother Girjesh Pati.
“I visited him in Delhi while he was staying in the Lalbagh slum, and urged him to take the civil services exam again. But Akhilesh told me that the slum-dwellers were his family and he would serve the common people by becoming their representative. Soon, our entire family was convinced and supported him.”