A few days before he completed a year in office, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav spotted a young journalist trying to make himself heard at a noisy, impromptu press meet in the state capital. "I will first take that query," he said, gesturing towards the journalist. Though the query got drowned in the cacophony, Yadav anticipated what was coming. "I know what you want to ask? You are trying to imply that I have failed. Well, let me tell you that the very people who are failing me would also give me pass marks. We would pass with distinction," he replied.
Call it the exuberance of the young or just smart politics, Yadav had taken many by surprise by approaching the opposition benches to exchange pleasantries with top BSP leaders like Swami Prasad Maurya and Naseemuddin Siddiqui - a sight witnessed inside the assembly after several years.
Little wonder then young MLAs like Raghav Lakhan Pal, despite being critical of the government functioning, haven't targeted Yadav personally. "The chief minister is young and educated. It's about time he took things in his own hands in order to lead the state to development," said Pal. The SP MLAs say that Yadav has been easily accessible. "You should see how opposition members including those who publicly attack the government head to him with their pending personal work. He doesn't shy away from dissent and criticism and has acted upon opposition suggestion on several occasion," says party MLA from Rampur Karkhana Fasiha Bashir Lari. She says: "In the five years of BSP rule, the total number of applications from people received by the government was around two lakh. In just 11 months, the SP government has received more - around 2.2 lakh applications so far."
A senior official talked about how the CM deftly handled the political storm that followed the murder of deputy superintendent of police Zia-ul-Haque in influential minister Raja Bhaiya's Kunda constituency. "In fact, showing remarkable sense of timing, he got the minister to resign before he faced the assembly and after assuring the assembly that the guilty would be booked, he dashed off to meet the DSP's angry widow in Deoria," he said.
"When he reached the Zuaffar village, the crowd was angry and agitated. In less than 45 minutes, the crowd had sobered down, mainly due to the way the CM conducted himself. In fact, he hardly left anything for the opposition, conceding all the demands of the widow," another officer said. A source said, in the roughly 60 minutes that he was airborne on his way back from Deoria, he had along with Azam Khan decided on a series of measures. "By the time the chopper touched Lucknow, the government had decided to recommend a CBI inquiry that day itself, a record of sorts," an officer said.