Akhilesh Yadav walks at his residence before leaving for a meeting with the newly elected legislators at party headquarters in Lucknow. REUTERS
hy did the Samajwadi Party choose Akhilesh Yadav and not party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav to be Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh? Commentators have gone off in two broad directions while answering this query.The first is that the SP supremo takes print and visual media a bit more seriously than they actually do, and hence got influenced by the ocean of (almost entirely favourable) coverage about the Australia-educted son of the party founder. Clearly,Akhilesh has sprinted miles ahead of the now cast-away Amar Singh in winning over the media,at least for now. Hence - or so a section of the commentariat believed - his selection as CM would act as a huge boost to the SP's influence within the political spectrum. The other strand of analysis was the state of the senior Yadav's health,the perception being that ill-health made it mandatory for him to pass the sceptre to Akhilesh.
As Atal Behari Vajpayee ( who was significantly challenged physically since end-2002) has shown, poor health has never stopped a politician in India from believing that he or she is indispensable to the future of the country. And as for press coverage,the numerous treacly reports about Rahul Gandhi did not result in his mother ensuring that he be given some administrative experience,at least as a Minister of State,or even in the Union Cabinet ( perhaps as Minister for Youth and Sports). Nor will the present crop of negative stories affect Rahul's status within the party,which is to take charge of the party when Sonia Gandhi decides to call it a day.This may take a while,as the Congress President evidently believes her party would crumble without her,just as Britain's Queen Elizabeth sees as crucial to the future of monarchy her remaiing the Sovereign for as long as her limbs permit. Hopefully,Rahul will not have to wait as long as Prince Charles has,although on present reckoning,it would seem that Sonia Gandhi is still reluctant to trust the 42-year old with administrative responsibility.
Mulayam is no Sonia,however,and he obviously trusts his son. But apart from filial affection,there is another reason why he has not taken up the responsibility of governance. This is the Congress Bureau of Intimidation,known by its initials as the CBI. This organisation has a mound of dossiers on both him as well as bete noire Mayawati,and is certain to use them,once commanded to do so by the organisation's political masters in 10 Janpath and 24 Akbar Road. However,Akhilesh comes with a clean bill of health,a status that hopefully will continue into the future. His takeover of the chief ministership has removed a powerful instrument of "influence" ( the use of the term "blackmail" would be unmannerly) over the SP. By annoiting Akhilesh,Mulayam has substantially enhanced his degrees of freedom vis-a-vis the Congress Party. Now even the CBI may not be able to stop the father-son duo,should they come to the conclusion that the Congress Party has remained in office too long for any good that it may be doing (to paraphrase Cromwell) ,and call upon it to go.