Hardly anyone noticed the unassuming boy in baggy trousers and over-sized T-shirts who shared a house with three friends and ate at wayside eateries.
Till someone noted the striking resemblance to Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Some 18 years after Akhilesh Yadav graduated as an engineer from a Karnataka college, the institute’s vice-principal remembered the Samajwadi Party’s “poster boy” as a quiet, “down-to-earth” student who stood in the queue to pay his fees.
“I am sure 80 per cent of the students had no clue who Akhilesh was. It was someone in the administration who made a good guess going by the boy’s striking resemblance to Mulayam Singh Yadav,” recalled Syed Shakeeb-Ur-Rahman, the vice-principal of Mysore’s Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering where Mulayam’s son, hailed as a “game-changer” in Uttar Pradesh, studied between 1990 and 1994.
Mulayam was chief minister when Akhilesh enrolled as a fresher, though he lost power the next year. By the time his son graduated, he was again back at the helm.
“He was such an unassuming and down-to-earth boy that no one ever took note of him,” the vice-principal
Akhilesh was a student of environmental engineering in the multi-branch college, considered among the best in the state, where he got admission under the management quota.
His admission form had “agriculturist” against his father’s name.
“No one would have guessed that the UP chief minister’s son was studying in our college,” the professor recalled. “As far as I know, Akhilesh lived like any other ordinary student and shared a small house with three of his close friends.”
Perhaps the only give-away was the Maruti Suzuki Gypsy he often drove.
He never took part in any college associations or extra-curricular activities.
Akhilesh remained in touch with Shakeeb-Ur-Rahman even after he moved to Sydney to do his master’s.
“He would often call me. Once, when he was just about entering politics I was in Delhi on some work. He visited me at IIT-Delhi where I was staying,” the professor said.
Akhilesh, who picked up a smattering of Kannada during his four years in the city, was particularly fond of Mysore Pak, a popular sweet.
Among his best friends in Mysore was Mohammed Ashraf Geelani, a mechanical engineer who works in Dubai.
“I am really happy that Uttar Pradesh has such a soft-spoken leader who identifies himself with the common people,” Ashraf’s mother Haseena Sharief said. “I wish him well.”
He has a broken Nose
Akhilesh Yadav, man of the match, as he is popularly known post-election as well as his trademark nose got the same after he got his nose bloody after he was hit by a ball directly on his face.
"The ball directly hit his face while playing on SJCE ground. His nose is still not fixed. Even today his hand inadvertently reaches out to the nose whenever he remembers Mysore," said MS Karuna, assistant professor, Rohilkhand University, a year senior to Akhilesh at SJCE.
He further said that doctors advised Akhilesh not to undergo surgery for the nose fracture.
“I remember Akhil having hurt his nose while he was a student here. I don’t exactly remember how it happened," said Shakib Ur Rahman, vice-principal who failed to recollect the incident.
“He had an open jeep and on seeing me waiting at the bus stop always offered to drop me at my place in Vontikoppal after college," said Karuna.
He said that their friendship continue even today and they keep meeting every six months. Akhilesh was a student of BE in Environmental Engineering and passed out in 1994.
"Whenever he comes to Bareilly, he makes it a point to meet me and the discussion mainly revolves around college days. Last time, he came was for an election campa