The founder of Samajwadi Party (SP) and three-time Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mulayam Singh Yadav breathed his last on 10 October in Medanta Hospital in Gurugram. Popularly known as 'Netaji', he was 82.
A ‘son of the soil', Yadav rose from grassroots politics to the helm of state politics. He won 10 assembly elections and went on to earn his name in national politics. Yadav had also won seven Lok Sabha elections in his 55-year-long political career. His name was counted among those aspiring for the post of prime minister in the 1990s.
Those who contributed to the making of the SP stalwart include names like Ram Manohar Lohia, Chaudhary Charan Singh, Shivpal Yadav, and Amar Singh. Let’s take a peek into the past all those who aided, supported, and sided with Mulayam Singh in his 55 year-long political journey.
Ram Manohar Lohia and Mulayam Singh Yadav
Mulayam Singh Yadav was born on 22 November 1939, in Saifai, Uttar Pradesh. Growing up, he dreamt of becoming a wrestler but was swayed by the socialist politics of Ram Manohar Lohia at the age of 14. It was his support for Lohia's socialist ideology for which he went to jail for the first time.
Deepak Mishra, Chief Spokesperson of Shivpal Yadav’s Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party says, “Lohia started a movement in 1954 protesting against an increase in rates of irrigation by the Uttar Pradesh government. Mulayam Singh Yadav was arrested and sent to Etawah jail for the first time.”
During his college days, he was highly influenced by both Ram Manohar Lohia and Raj Narain (famous for winning a case against Indira Gandhi that catalysed the Emergency). Yadav was elected as the president of the student union at Agra University. This was the time when Lohia's Samyukta Socialist Party (SSP) was campaigning for the eradication of caste, and against price rise and the English language.
In 1967, Mulayam Singh Yadav fought and won his first election on an SSP ticket from Jaswantnagar.
Chaudhary Charan Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav
After Ram Manohar Lohia’s death in 1967, Mulayam Singh Yadav became a disciple of Chaudhary Charan Singh, known for his dedication to the cause of farmers. He joined Charan Singh's Bhartiya Krishak Dal (BKD) and in 1974 was elected an MLA on the BKD ticket.
The BKD and the Socialist Party merged in 1974 to form the Bhartiya Lok Dal (BLD), which later got merged with Janata Party in 1977. This was the time when Mulayam Singh Yadav learned the tricks of politicking under the guidance of Chaudhary Charan Singh.
During this period, Dalit leader Kanshi Ram was trying to awaken the downtrodden with his concept of ‘Bahujan Samaj’ while Chaudhary Charan Singh tried to unite Jats and Yadavs in Uttar Pradesh. The trademark politics of Mulayam Singh Yadav by connecting with the people in the local dialect was clearly influenced by Chaudhary Charan Singh. When Yadav formed Samajwadi Party in 1992, he was able to add Muslim support with Charan Singh’s Jats and Yadavs.
When Charan Singh left the Janata Party and formed his own party – Lok Dal, Mulayam Singh Yadav stayed with him like an adopted son. When Yadav lost the assembly election in 1980, Charan Singh got him nominated as a member of the legislative council. Later he was also made the state president of the Lok Dal.
Yadav hoped that he would become his successor, but in the mid-1980s Charan Singh declared his own son Ajit Singh as the rightful heir of his legacy. Charan Singh died in 1987 and the Lok Dal got divided into two – one faction led by Charan Singh’s son Ajit Singh and the other led by Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav
Amar Singh was once called the ‘Chanakya’ of Uttar Pradesh politics. He was the chief troubleshooter of Yadav and a fixer. A well-known and successful industrialist in his own right, Amar Singh entered politics and became very close to Mulayam Singh Yadav.
They met first time on a flight in 1996 when Mulayam Singh Yadav was defence minister. Amar Singh went on to become National General Secretary of the Samajwadi Party (SP).
Amar Singh was seen as one of the main advisors of Mulayam Singh Yadav: deciding party tickets, handing out organizational posts, and routinely making decisions in the party. With the unflinching support of Yadav, Amar Singh became a powerful politician in UP.
Political pundits believe that Amar Singh played a crucial role in the success of the SP in UP and in Yadav becoming the Chief Minister. At the peak of his career, Amar Singh literary carried a ‘panacea’ of all trouble in his pocket and had a deep-rooted network in the film fraternity. So much so, that he could turn Jaya Bachchan, wife of superstar Amitabh Bachchan, into an SP member.
In 2004, Mulayam Singh Yadav provided a supporting hand to the UPA government on many occasions. In most cases, it was advised by Amar Singh. He was the same Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had withdrawn support from the Congress party in 1999 at the last moment and prevented it from forming the government.
But after nine years, Yadav, advised by Amar Singh stood firmly with the UPA government with respect to India's nuclear deal with the United States.
Shivpal Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav
Youngest among the five Yadav brothers, Shivpal Yadav is the youngest who always stood shoulder to shoulder with Mulayam Singh Yadav. There was a time when the latter was the supreme leader in Uttar Pradesh and Shivpal Yadav called the shots in the party organization. Before Akhilesh Yadav's entry into politics, Shivpal was considered to be the political heir of Mulayam Singh.
But history repeated itself and Mulayam Singh Yadav took the same decision which separated him from the Lok Dal decades ago when Chaudhary Charan Singh chose his own son Ajit Singh over him. He chose his son Akhilesh Yadav as his heir apparent.
After many skirmishes with Akhilesh Yadav and an intense family feud, Shivpal Yadav parted ways and formed his own party – Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia).
Commander Arjun Singh Bhadauria, Natthu Singh, and Mulayam Singh Yadav
Senior journalist Utkarsh Sinha says that it was Commander Arjun Singh Bhadauria who gave Mulayam Singh Yadav his first lesson in socialism. Considered an outlaw by the British, Bhadauria led the Lal Sena which fought them in the ravines of Chambal.
After Independence, Commander Arjun Singh joined the socialist camp of Acharya Narendra Dev, Jaiprakash Narayan, and Ram Manohar Lohia instead of Congress.
Mulayam Singh Yadav came in close contact with Commander Arjun Singh during his college days, who in turn taught him the first lessons in socialist ideology. But there is one more name without whose mention the story of Mulayam Singh Yadav cannot be completed – Natthu Singh.
Natthu Singh was given a ticket from the Jaswantnagar assembly seat in 1967 but he propped Mulayam Singh Yadav as the suitable candidate on account of his advanced age. Mulayam Singh won his first election in 1967 and went on to become MLA from Jaswantnagar for a record eight times.
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