Having won the intra-party battle and cobbled together an alliance with Congress, Akhilesh Yadav on Tuesday hit the campaign trail, targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his 'achhe din' promise and asserting the new coalition will win over 300 of state's 403 assembly seats.
However, the Chief Minister of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh set tongues wagging as he kicked off his campaign with controversial Samajwadi Party leader Gayatri Prajapati by his side, drawing ridicule from BJP, which dubbed the "tainted" minister the new SP chief's brand ambassador.
Akhilesh not only shared the stage with Prajapati, but went a step further by telling the audience that he (Gayatri) would not only win his seat, but ensure victory of other SP candidates in the adjoining areas. "Gayatri Prajapati is sitting on the stage. He will not only win his seat (Amethi), but also ensure that other SP candidates in the nearby constituencies come out triumphant," the Chief Minister said in his new role as the SP national president.
Taunting Akhilesh, state BJP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya said that by sharing dais with Gayatri and by praising him, the Chief Minister has proved that "Gayatri is his brand ambassador and corruption is his (CM's) priority."
Under the SP-Congress alliance, SP will contest the Amethi seat and Prajapati, who was sacked by Akhilesh from the post of mines minister over his alleged involvement in a mining scam, will be its candidate.
Addressing the election rally, Akhilesh targeted the Modi government at the Centre, saying in order to take credit it will incorporate in the Union Budget some of the ambitious schemes of UP government and promises made in SP manifesto.
The SP National President also sought to ridicule the 'achche din' promise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying instead of good days, people got 'jhadu' (broom) or were asked to do yoga.
"Our manifesto has so many ambitious schemes for women and youth. I think the Union Budget might incorporate some of them so that BJP can take credit," he said and made a scathing attack on BJP for its demonetisation decision because of which people in the rural areas were facing severe hardships.
Akhilesh, who took over the mantle of SP president last week, said, "Now after alliance with Congress, we will bag over 300 of the 403 Assembly seats."
Having won internal power game in the Samajwadi Party, the Chief Minister said he had faced many ups and downs and whatever stand he took was meant only for the welfare of the people.
He dwelt at length on the SP's manifesto and reminded the people that whatever promise he had made in 2012 had been fulfilled.
Akhilesh highlighted the achivements of his government during the past five years to drive home the point that he believed in development "while others believe in doing dirty politics".