They may have lost the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh by a huge margin. But, they stood out as a team—both parallel and diverse—for their unique campaigning style. Power couple, Akhilesh and Dimple Yadav, get into a candid conversation with Ankita Rathod on their journey so far, the much talked about family feud and what went wrong for them in the 2017 assembly elections. Don’t miss the exclusive pictures too…
Before the election results were announced:
It is six in the evening in Lucknow. A chill is setting in. Nonetheless, the by lanes of the nawabi city are feeling the heat amidst the assembly election banter. All said and done, the power never fails at 5 Kalidas Marg—which is the official residence of the Chief Minister of India’s most populous and electorally significant state Uttar Pradesh, which, with more than 200 million people, would be the fifth-largest in the world if it was an independent country.
Outside the gates, people are jostling in the cold, pleading the security personnel for a meeting with him, there are also several bunches of people raising slogans for the Samajwadi Party.
As the gates open, everything is tranquil inside, until India’s youngest man to be Chief Minister suddenly calls us into his cabin after a short wait of about five minutes. Inside, he is sitting right across a massive triangular shaped table clad in a spotless white kurta-pyjama, a jet black Nehru jacket and black Mobils shoes. “Dimple kahan hai? Kahan hai Dimple? Dimple ko bulao,(Where is Dimple? Call Dimple)” demands Akhilesh in an animated voice as we brief him about the photo-shoot planned for the two. In no time enters Dimple Yadav, a member of the Lok Sabha from Kannauj and the first lady of UP, wearing a beige colour Anavila Mishra linen-cotton sari, apologising for the delay. She has a few flower petals stuck to her hair. “Bohot phool dale gaye tum par aaj (Were you showered with too many flowers today)?” asks Akhilesh, looking at Dimple. An uncanny candidness settles in the room as Akhilesh pulls out his cell phone and shows pictures of Dimple’s rallies, vindicating the fact that she is more popular than him when it comes to attracting crowds. He adds that she fills the need gap that he may leave, in the department of addressing women’s issues, for instance.
Both of them have taken a brief break from their hectic schedule of numerous rallies and countless speeches to pose for our cameras. Dimple looks at her husband as he neatens up his look. “Your hair is all sticky,” she says. “It needs to be washed.” She then proceeds to comb his hair, which has taken a beating from the elements during the long day of electioneering, with her fingers. When our photographer requests him to change into another outfit, he refuses point blank, saying, “I will not change. I will stick only to this. You will notice that jitna hamaara youth hai (all our youth), everyone wears black and white. It helps you focus more.” And we couldn’t agree more. Dimple interrupts, “The kurta is still fine, but I keep telling him to at least change the sadris (vest-jacket). I have picked up so many colourful sadris for him but he will only say, ‘Ke main shaam ko pehnunga, lekin shaam kab hoti hai...(I shall wear it in the evening, which never comes),” she says rhetorically, looking into his eyes.
They come from a diverse background. While Dimple is an Army officer’s daughter, Akhilesh is a thoroughbred political scion. But it is evident from the way they speak and behave that the couple complement each other in every way. So, let’s throw some light on how it all started. Cut to sometime during the late ’90s when Akhilesh was back from Australia after completing his Master’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of Sydney. While Dimple, a talented painter and an avid horse-rider, was pursuing her graduation from the Lucknow University. At first glance, there was no connection between the two. But destinyhad something special planned for them. “We met through common friends somewhere in the cantonment area, here in Lucknow,” narrates Akhilesh, as we settle for a chat after some quick pictures with the two.
“I was all of 16 and studying. So, nothing much initially, but gradually it happened. What I liked about him the most was that he never had any air about himself, considering the family he belonged to. He just came across as a very simple and down to earth person,” says Dimple. Over the years, the friendship turned into love, and got the wedding bells ringing. Akhilesh’s father and then Samajwadi Party President Mulayam Singh Yadav was against his marriage to Dimple as she was a Rajput. Despite all the opposition, Akhilesh tied the knot with his love. And they say, it was Amar Singh who supported Akhilesh’s decision and helped him convince his father.
“But we always knew we were going to be together,” reveals Dimple, when asked about how they dealt with the Yadav family situation at that time. “We were never too tense. Never, never never,” she insists. “At the bottom of my heart, I knew this was going to work out,” adds Akhilesh. The couple overcame several obstacles and finally on 24, November, 1999, their wedding took place in Lucknow. The wedding was a lavish affair attended by guests including Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna. As I turn towards Akhilesh to hear a little bit about their love story, he shies away, not wanting to get into too many details, but on a broader level, he comments, “Marriage means two friends. If we remain friends, toh shadi lambi chalegi (the marriage will last long). If you treat your companion as a wife, then you’ll end up fighting every day,” says the goody two shoes husband with a little mischief in his voice. But on a serious note, he continues, “I think a person’s qualities makes the relationship between two people stronger. It is not necessary that one may have all the qualities his or her partner likes. But you have to adjust, rather understand. Even if one is at fault, you have to nazarandaaz (overlook) the mistake.”
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