This week people saw a rare political event in Uttar Pradesh politics when two dominant ministers - Shivpal Yadav and Azam Khan - gave a miss to chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's cabinet expansion ceremony.
This is a new phenomenon, as most of the times it is Akhilesh who has had to miss some ceremony or the other to express his anger. But now he is in the driver's seat and others are jostling for space. This may be defined as the last phase of a power shift from Mulayam Singh to Akhilesh in India's politically vibrant state.
Akhilesh not only dared his uncle, but by refusing Mukhtar Ansari as his party colleague, also tried to send a clear message that he will not tolerate goons, and/or indulge in any type of minority appeasement - both issues being highlighted by the rival BJP in the poll-bound state.
But what has changed in the last four years to give the UP chief minister such confidence despite the party's flop show in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections?
|Now, Akhilesh Yadav has acquired his father's basic quality - ground connect.
The answers may be many but the most important factor is that now the CM not only has faith in his own development but also has sufficient command of the party organisation.
Akhilesh travelled to many remote parts of Uttar Pradesh during the 2012 Assembly election campaign. However, this time, he can tell you the exact location of a road in any sub-division of the state. If one got their hands on the CM's travel schedule for the last six months, they will find that he has travelled to almost every district of the state.
He can specifically talk about the problems of particular villages and the efforts made by his government to solve the same. He can talk to you at length about the historic talabs (tanks) of Bundelkhand and the delayed payment of sugarcane farmers in western UP.
This shows that he has acquired his father's basic quality - ground connect. This ground connect makes him less dependent on his uncles.
The second thing he has developed is mingling with more people. Now he knows how to pacify agitators and farmers. A shining example of this was seen on June 5 at his official residence.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (Bhanu) was agitating in entire UP and went on a "chakka jam". After initial administrative measures, Akhilesh asked the farmers to meet him and more than 40 farm leaders reached the CM's house. He gave sufficient time to farm leaders to express their grievances and did not oppose even the harshest criticism.
When his time to speak came, he simply said that most of the demands made by the farmers, which came in purview of state, would be fulfilled. He also made it clear he couldn't promise on behalf of the Centre.
He spent one-and-a-half hours with farm leaders and won them over. This is something rare for the farmers, as they can't imagine any such meeting with former chief minister and BSP supermo Mayawati.
The CM has done commendable work on road connectivity and power supply. As the elections are less than eight months away, he has given specific deadlines to complete his dream projects, mostly related to elevated roads, expressways and metro rail projects.
These mega projects are already getting media attention, but projects like railway overbridges in several towns and four-laning of roads leading to district headquarters, are the real game-changers.
During my visits to parts of western UP and Bundelkhand, I was surprised to see people talking about development work by the Akhilesh government, a rare thing in the last 15 years.
Akhilesh is doing all this to create an image for himself which is at variance with that of his party. An important thing his father could not do in his entire political career.
Now it is up to him to accelerate this new-found image and perception of development. Incidents like Muzaffarnagar riots, or any other law and order issue can shatter his dreams.
The issue of illegal mining in Bundelkhand and communal polarisation in western UP will repeatedly throw challenges to him.
His ground workers may increase law and order problem by illegally capturing some private or public property. If Akhilesh cannot stop them, they will stop Akhilesh from victory.