The recently-concluded Uttar Pradesh assembly elections have been a roller coaster ride for the ruling Samajwadi Party. Starting from the infighting within the state's most famous Yadav clan to forging an alliance with the Congress to maintain 'probabilities', the party has seen numerous ups and downs during the past three months.
And now, when the exit polls have indicated a possible electoral loss for SP, all eyes are now on party's national president Akhilesh Yadav who will be calling the shots once the actual results are declared on March 11.
In the past five years, Akhilesh has tried to steer the party and the SP government on his shoulders alone after charming the voters in the 2012 assembly polls.
He even revolted against his father and party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Many political pundits were of the opinion that the SP feud was just an eyewash with an intent to add more gloss to Akhilesh's 'clean' image.
With questions are being raised on the accuracy of exit polls, it is totally fair to assume that it is not a dead end for the young chief minister and his party.
What if Samajwadi Party gets majority
Contrary to what opinion polls have predicted, If Samajwadi Party succeeds in retaining power with Congress' help, it may soon find itself on the negotiation table with its ally.
In that case, the party and mainly Akhilesh Yadav will find it difficult to cater the demands of its own leaders and the Congress.
Akhilesh, during an interview with the Economic Times, had defended his seat-sharing arrangement with Congress saying: “People can say Congress’ (given 105 seats by SP) vote share is less. We know vote numbers at the booth level too. We are very strong at the booth level. Maybe they are weaker at the booth level. But I feel whatever their vote share... if it is combined with the SP’s, we stand to benefit.”
This clearly states that this time, the Yadav scion is unsure of his party's performance as compared to the last election tally in which the Samajwadi Party rose to a thumping majority with 224 seats.
However, the major challenge Akhilesh will face will be to live up to party's promises about the all-round development of the state which is largely limited to state capital Lucknow and party's stronghold Safai.
Litmus test for 'Kaam Bolta Hai' slogan
The win will also put Akhilesh to test for his much-vounted slogan 'Kaam Bolta Hai' as he has used the development card during all his election campaigns in Uttar Pradesh highlighting his work in and around Lucknow.
SP's main rivals, the BJP and the BSP too have taken the fight to the voters, highlighting the shortcomings in the works which they said have been carried out in haste and flagged off even without achieving full completion.
The Lucknow Metro project has become a bone of contention with with PM Modi ridiculing it for the green signal given even before it was thrown open to public.
What if Samajwadi Party loses
The defeat, as most of the exit polls have predicted, however, will not dent Akhilesh's image. In that case, it will be termed as Samajwadi Party's defeat.
The blame will put on the anti-incumbency factor apparently triggered by the infighting within the Yadav family. However, the Samajwadi Party may join the next assembly as the principal opposition party.
Akhilesh is still young and he will have few crucial years to rejuvenate the party cadre and its base across the state.