Akhilesh Yadav fought the battle for electoral votes like a seasoned marketer fighting for market share.

It was clearly a four cornered race and he identified his major competition was going to come from Rahul Gandhi. The incumbent Mayavati had the anti-incumbency sentiment plus the baggage of corruption and poor governance. BJP had neither an election issue nor a leader – they used an ageing and sick Vajpayee as the face of the Party. All eyes were on Congress and its leader Rahul. He was staking his reputation and the future of the Congress led coalition, on victory and a decent showing at the UP polls.

To win, Akhilesh identified the segments he needed to woo over to SP; the cynical, educated, middle classes who normally don’t vote, women – they are normally underrepresented and finally the Muslim votes which, if the powers-to-be are to be believed were lost by the Congress because of Salman Khurshid’s somewhat unfortunate remarks. Could Akhilesh, who had been working for at least a couple of years for the polls, banked on this accidental swing of the Muslim votes? No, I think not.

And then he got a better mouse trap – his manifesto promised economic empowerment to all sections of the society. But like a good marketer, he knew he had to make his claims and promises credible, particularly when the history of Mulayam’s tenure as CM did not have pleasant memories for the electorate – and so as proof of concept, he neutralised some of the satraps of the SP party and brought in several candidates with no criminal offences.

Finally as brand SP, he projected a warm, son-of-the-soil image to the people. His ‘Desi Boy’ image clearly endeared him to the citizens of UP raising the SP brand affinity scores to overtake Rahul by a good stretch and lead the Party to victory.