Lucknow/New Delhi: Chastened by the disappointing showing in the elections, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday handed over the Uttar Pradesh baton to his Australia-educated son Akhilesh Yadav on the plea that he was going to spend more time in New Delhi henceforth.
It was a tacit admission that the party, that he ran with an iron grip and which had its primary base in Uttar Pradesh, needed a generational change in leadership, especially after Rahul Gandhi, 38, piloted the Congress party's amazing comeback in the state.
The Congress increased its tally from 9 to 21, belying all predictions, while the Samajwadi Party's number came down crashing from 36 to 23. Their alliance talks had failed and the Congress had decided to go it alone, a decision being attributed to Rahul Gandhi.
Mulayam Singh Yadav's cousin and SP national general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, the party's leader in the Rajya Sabha, announced Sunday that Akhilesh would be the state unit chief.
Thirty-five-year-old Akhilesh Yadav's elevation was a foregone conclusion the day Mulayam Singh Yadav last month announced his decision to stay in New Delhi and devote more time to national politics. He declared his younger brother Shivpal Yadav as his successor and named him as leader of the opposition in the UP Assembly.
Shivpal Yadav had been the acting president of the state unit of the Samajwadi Party ever since his predecessor Ram Saran Das passed away in 2008.
Akhilesh won from two constituencies--Kannauj and Firozabad--with handsome margins and has been in charge of the party's youth unit.
His elevation is expected to infuse some new ideas into the party, which was often labelled as backward and obscurantist with ideas that the younger voters found retrograde. The party's manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections slammed the use of English and computers on the plea that it went against the interest of the poor and not so well off people.
Earlier last week, the party leadership had dissolved its state units and frontal organisations in several states, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir with a view to re-organise them.