"Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) will remain in politics - both in UP and at the Centre. We will move forward with his blessings," said Akhilesh Yadav, who till the moment that he was elected by party MLAs to lead them in UP, insisted that his father would be Chief Minister. Akhilesh's father has established that his own political acumen remains top-grade - in a matter of three days, he wooed a faction of the party that was opposed to a rookie as Chief Minister into consensus. That took some doing. Senior leaders like Azam Khan - who Mulayam got to propose Akhilesh's name today - reportedly did not share the enthusiasm of most other party members who said it was time for the younger Yadav to take charge.
Akhilesh met Uttar Pradesh Governor BL Joshi today and staked claim to form government. He will be sworn in between 11 and 1 on Thursday, March 15.
Akhilesh has his first task cut out. He has promised to address a continuum of acts of violence by his party workers in different parts of the state. He said that part of the problem is that officials appointed by the previous dispensation are still in place and not performing their duties. That will change, he said. "Soon honest officers would be appointed and action will be taken against those who did not perform their duties. Law and order will be a priority," Mr Yadav said.
He has multiple problems to address. Even as he was being propped by the party as the man to lead them today, there were more reports of SP workers and leaders indulging in violence in the state. Then, naysayers also point out that the young leader, who won UP on an aspirational appeal and not a negative one, in fact has no administrative experience.
Akhilesh Yadav has promised UP that he will implement every word in the manifesto that people of UP voted him on. "I reiterate that the Samajwadi Party will keep all the promises it made in its manifesto," he said today.
The zero-tolerance for goonda-ism or hooliganism was emphasized by Akhilesh through his long campaign. Pedaling his party symbol, the cycle, he wheeled his party into a whopping 226 seats - the biggest total in two decades in UP for any political party. His youth helped testify for the change he promised - "Ummeed ki cycle" became his mantra. In a complete reversal of earlier agendas, he announced laptops for all college-going students. Three years ago, before the 2009 General Elections, the SP had said it was against the use of English and the use of computers. Voters seemed charmed by his sincerity - he would often hop off his cycle and talk to them for hours, spending as much time at these roadside chats as at the massive rallies that formally requested the people to vote for his father aka "netaji." (Watch: Top 5 reasons why people love Akhilesh Yadav)
Akhilesh also took some hard political decisions. He chose party candidates with care, not caring on whose toes he stepped as he resolutely kept away the likes of DP Yadav away from the party. He ensured that his father ended the misadventure that his alliance with Hindutva mascot Kalyan Singh proved to be. He also ensured that the SP's Delhi face for many years, politician Amar Singh, a man that a lot of grassroots SP leaders were opposed to, was expelled from the party. (In Pics: Akhilesh pedals his way to UP's top job)
Akhilesh's ferocious share of the vote in these elections came at the cost of another young leader being projected as Generation Next. 41-year-old Rahul Gandhi took the responsibility for managing the Congress campaign. When the results were declared, he took the responsibility for a lost opportunity. Exhausted by the corruption and misadministration of Mayawati, UP sought a change in record numbers, its turnout through the different days of voting a healthy indicator of a state looking for an option. Despite Mr Gandhi's committed and energetic campaign, the Congress was dismissed as an unsuitable option, placing fourth. It added just six seats to the 22 it won in the last election. (Watch: The Akhilesh Yadav Success Story)
In his implausibly large victory, Akhilesh has shown humility. "Someone comes first, another person comes second," he said. His experience on the wrong side of the finish line is not inadequate. In 2007, his father was evicted from office by Mayawati, who merged UP's caste equations into a Perfect 10 formula. Then in 2009, Akhilesh's wife Dimple contested a by-election for the Lok Sabha from Ferozabad in UP - a seat her husband had won and vacated just five months earlier. The SP took the voters for granted; the Congress turned the election into a prestige point. Mr Gandhi led a pantheon of leaders to campaign for actor-politician Raj Babbar, a former Samajwadi party man. Embarrassed and bitter, Akhilesh had blamed Mr Gandhi for his wife's defeat.
The political maturity that has been visible during his campaign will be challenged by the state he leads. UP struggles with poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, unemployment, crime and corruption. While he deals with that dire agenda, his father is expected to push the party's fortunes in Delhi. In its alliance with Mamata Banerjee at the Centre, the Congress is beginning to feel that it isn't getting a great bargain for the MPs she brings to the UPA coalition. Mulayam's renewed strength in UP makes him an attractive option. His numbers in UP will give him more Rajya Sabha seats, where the UPA is in a minority. With General Elections scheduled for 2014, Mulayam is expected by his party to work on the bigger picture.
For Akhilesh, it is the details that will count. He has been handed his state; what he does with it could make history - good or bad.