Uttar Pradesh assembly polls were supposed to be Rahul Gandhi's crowning moment but it was snatched away by another young man who helped his father's party back to power. Both men had taken charge of the campaigns to the Uttar Pradesh state assembly -- Rahul Gandhi for Congress and Akhilesh Yadav for his Samajwadi Party. Both of them projected themselves as winds of change, but it was Yadav's face that was splashed all over the front pages as he helped Samajwadi Party secure 224 out of the state's 403 seats, enabling it to form the state government without any need for a coalition.
Considered a youth icon with leadership qualities, Akhilesh Yadav had, during the high voltage poll campaign, raised issues concerning both urban and rural India such as poverty, agriculture, corruption and social evils. The young Samajwadi Party leader had carried out an intensive campaign for the party in the elections, taking to the street on foot and on cycle.
He reached out to people at the grassroots through road-shows across the state and sought to convey a message of being accessible and reachable. Akhilesh also attempted to wash off the taint of his party's association with criminal elements during its rule in the state. In one landmark decision, Yadav insisted that don-turned-politician DP Yadav be refused a party ticket to contest the election, reportedly against the wishes of some party stalwarts.
Although born in Uttar Pradesh, Yadav finished his education in Sydney, Australia, and speaks fluent English, but has the political acumen to answer media questions in Hindi. In cricket-mad India, he loves football and supports the English club Manchester United.
Based on the UP polls results, he does seem more politically astute than Rahul Gandhi. But Yadav does not see it that way as he says: "Politics is like that. We lost last time but won this time. We may lose again. Similarly Rahul lost this time but may win tomorrow."