If you would talk to anyone in Uttar Pradesh during the elections, more often than not you would find them nod their head and agree to the statement that Akhilesh Yadav 'ne kaam toh kiya hai' (has done work). But that effort has not transpired into an election victory for the Samajwadi Party scion, with Narendra Modi scripting a stunning win for the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP).
This election was the toughest test for Akhilesh Yadav who had to overcome an internal strife within the party and a division with his father Mulayam Singh Yadav.
The emergence of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh can be attributed to the saffron party's development plank with which it had also swept the 2014 general elections. Akhilesh Yadav had tried to a tread a similar path with focus on development and emphasis on the youth during his tenure, but the Samajwadi Party's reputation for encouraging what rival parties describe as 'gunda raaj' has come back to bite the young leader.
Akhilesh Yadav may have lost this election, but most analysts would agree that he has a long road ahead of him in Indian politics as a leader who can possibly bring a lot of different political parties on the same table to fight against what at this point feels like a growingly invincible BJP with the country's tallest leader Narendra Modi and master strategician Amit Shah at the top.
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So, what has Akhilesh done to develop a general sentiment that he may have lost, but it is not the end for him. Here are some of his strengths and achievements as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh:
Shrewd politician: Akhilesh Yadav is shrewd politician, less in the mould of the rebel his father Mulayam Singh Yadav, but more in the mould of a moderate like Atal Bihari Vajpayee who can take diverse interests along with him. This trait would be valuable when he stakes his claim to the nation's top job at some point in time.
Youth appeal: While this election result may suggest otherwise, Akhilesh Yadav does have an appeal among the youth. A lot of his schemes as the chief minister of Uttar Ptradesh were youth centric. The unemployment allowance (Rs 1000 per month) scheme and the senior citizen farmers' pension schemes (Rs 500 per month) touched millions of lives across the state. His regime also provided free books up to class 8; each girl child got two sets of school uniforms free every year; children from families who earn under Rs 5 lakh per annum are provided private higher education for free; a tablet for every student passing Class X.
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Aspirational India: The completion of Agra-Lucknow expressway in record time was one of the main highlights of Akhilesh Yadav's tenure as the chief minister. This demonstrated his ability to take on large infrastructure projects and execute them. The image of someone who can get the job done is critical to capture the mood of an aspirational India. In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal as a leader lies in his promises to transform India to a developed country with smart cities and bullet trains.
Economic achievements: Going forward, Akhilesh Yadav, despite the loss, can boast of delivering on the economic front for Uttar Pradesh. The economic output of the state grew at a fast clip under his rule. Its gross domestic product rose almost 3 percentage points between 2012/13 and 2015/16, from 4.3 per cent to 7.1 per cent. The rapid growth also helped its debt-to-GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product) ratio decline. The per capita net state domestic product also risen significantly.