Young new star rises in India’s most populous state


A fresh young star was chosen Saturday to take power in India’s most populous and politically key state after dealing a stinging electoral humiliation to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty scion Rahul Gandhi. Charismatic politician Akhilesh Yadav, 38, is credited with crushing Gandhi’s hopes of reviving the national ruling Congress Party’s fortunes in impoverished Uttar Pradesh ahead of national elections due in 2014. “We will work to take Uttar Pradesh on the path of prosperity and ensure that it matches up to the other states which have left us behind,” Yadav promised after his party chose him to be chief minister following a meeting in the state capital Lucknow. His selection came after he engineered the regional socialist Samajwadi Party’s sweeping comeback in state elections earlier in the week in Uttar Pradesh, which has 200 million people — more than Brazil’s population. Riding his regional party’s symbol, the cycle — which he called the “cycle of hope” — at rallies across the state, the marine engineering graduate represented the face of the “new” Indian politician, analysts said. Uttar Pradesh is viewed as critical in India’s political alliance formulations as the state sends the biggest single bloc of lawmakers to the national parliament in New Delhi. Akhilesh Yadav is the son of wrestler-turned politician Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has served in the role three times. In the elections, the Yadav son and father duo trounced the incumbent chief minister Mayawati, a mercurial low-caste leader criticised for her grandiose displays of wealth and taste for expensive statues, including those of herself. Akhilesh “embraced the idea of aspiration and change” in the state, which has suffered from a series of corruption-tainted governments that have failed to bring development, India Express editor Shekhar Gupta told India’s NDTV. Congress scored disappointing results in three other states elections, winning a clear majority only in the far-flung northeastern state of Manipur. The fourth-place finish of Congress in Uttar Pradesh has raised doubts over the political abilities of Gandhi, often tagged as India’s “prime minister-in-waiting”, to live up to his party’s aspirations for him. But despite the setback, 41-year-old Gandhi is seen as the party’s unofficial candidate to succeed Manmohan Singh, 79, as prime minister of the Congress-led national government.