After a big show of family unity as his father and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav flagged off his rath yatra, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav set off on Thursday morning in his snazzy red Mercedes bus that is serving as an election chariot.
A temporary breakdown was soon fixed and the Chief Minister is back in the rath, cheered on by hundreds of supporters. Shortly before he set off, there was a scramble to get inside the rath, a clear improvement over the one that Akhilesh Yadav rode in 2012 to lead the Samajwadi Party to a conclusive majority.
This Merc rath has a hydraulic lift which will zip the Chief Minister to the roof from the vehicle’s belly to address crowds. No need to step out. A slick public address system is included and the bus is also carrying a collection of campaign songs which will be played out as it drives down the roads of UP.
The air-conditioned rath has two compartments – one is a sitting area and the other a zone to relax in fitted with couches. Hungry kya? There is a refrigerator and an oven for quick hot meals.
Two large televisions and digital equipment will keep the Chief Minister up with news and entertainment as he travels around the state.
The bus has four cameras mounted on the sides of the bus and a monitor inside shows all that is happening outside.
The fancy interiors had clearly caught the attention of the Chief Minister’s three children too. His oldest daughter Aditi was busy shooting on her mobile. “I am shooting my own documentary of the rath,” she said.
There are only four seats in the bus, a red seat in soft leather on the left side of the bus reserved for the main campaigner. For each leg of the tour, Akhilesh Yadav will change his set of fellow travellers.
“This is much better than holding rallies. One gets to meet more people,” said a satisfied Chief Minister as he surveyed the hundreds of people gathered at the start of his yatra. Commandos and policemen had a tough time getting supporters to stand aside to allow the Chief Minister to board the bus.
His wife Dimple Yadav, the party’s lawmaker from Kannauj, played host offering water to those inside the bus.
When the driver stopped the bus for a minor repair, Akhilesh Yadav zoomed up on the hydraulic lift and tested the public address system, asking supporters and party leaders to work hard and take his message of development across the state.
Seeing an old party worker being pushed in the crowd, the Chief Minister asked policemen to help him to safety.