Lucknow, Mar 10 : Akhilesh Yadav, son of Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, will be the new and youngest Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, representing a generational shift in a state whose politics is dominated by caste and religion.
Ending all speculation, Akhilesh, 38, was elected unanimously at a meeting of the SP legislature party in which senior leader Azam Khan, who is said to have had some reservations, proposed his name.
His predecessor Mayawati was 39 when she first became chief minister in 1995 in a coalition government with support from SP.
It was seconded by Mulayam's brother Shivpal Singh Yadav, who also reportedly had some misgivings initially about handing over chiefministership to the young leader who is credited in a major way with reviving the party's fortunes in the elections.
The election of Akhilesh Yadav, who holds a masters in environmental engineering from Australia, was followed by a thunderous clapping of the assembled gathering of newly-elected MLAs and MPs of the party. As soon as his name was approved, Akhilesh touched the feet of his 73-year-old father Mulayam Singh Yadav to take his blessings.
That Akhilesh, who toured Uttar Pradesh on his ‘kranti rath yatra' on the plank of development, could be in the race for chiefministership was evident when the party got an absolute majority in the 403-member Assembly by winning 224 seats, notwithstanding the reservations of some seniors. Akhilesh was also instrumental in the party shedding its image of being opposed to computers and English with promise of free laptops for students.
However, in the last two days Mulayam Singh reportedly worked on the seniors and persuaded them about handing over the mantle of chiefministership to his son, who now represents Kannauj in the Lok Sabha.
In his speech, Azam Khan, considered the Muslim face of SP, said Akhilesh was being given a big responsibility and hoped he would discharge it successfully. He rejected Mayawati's claim that Muslims shifted to SP because of the fear of BJP and said the Muslims were always with the SP from the days of Babri Masjid demolition.
“The party got more votes than it got after Babri mosque demolition”, Khan added.