Socialist, Politician, Friend: Life & Times of Sharad Yadav in His Final Tweets
The final tweets by Sharad Yadav are a lookback into several key aspects of his political life & ideology.
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"I appreciate the Hon'ble Supreme Court's stay on Allahabad High Court's direction to hold UP civic elections without OBC quota," said Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) leader and former Union Minister Sharad Yadav on 5 January in his last tweet, days before his demise.
One of the tallest socialist leaders in India, Sharad Yadav (75) passed away on the night of Thursday, 12 January, in Gurugram. An agriculturist, educationist, and an engineer, Yadav shared a good equation even with his opponents.
Here's a look at Yadav's political journey via some of his tweets in his final days.
One of the Strongest OBC Voices
"I appreciate the Hon'ble Supreme Court's stay on Allahabad High Court's direction to hold UP civic elections without OBC quota," Yadav tweeted in Hindi last week.
In 1989, Yadav, the then textiles minister in the VP Singh cabinet, was one of the loudest voices to push for the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations for reservation for the OBCs. The VP Singh government implemented the commission's recommendations in August 1990 while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that had provided external support to the government, had upped the ante over the Ram Mandir issue.
VP Singh's decision changed the course of Indian politics, while Sharad Yadav remained a staunch opponent of the caste system throughout his political career.
Staunch Constitutionalist, Anti-Emergency Activist but Respected Indira Gandhi
"Our Constitution is a holy book for every citizen. The country should be run by the Constitution itself. This is the only book which safeguards the rights of every citizen of India. Greetings to all the countrymen on the occasion of Constitution Day," Sharad Yadav tweeted on 26 November last year.
A staunch opponent of the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi, Sharad Yadav joined the movement against the then Congress government and registered his first electoral victory from Jabalpur in 1974.
He quit the seat in 1976 during the Emergency to protest the government's decision to extend the Lok Sabha's duration by a year, calling it a "trick played on the Constitution," but won it back during the post-Emergency general elections in 1977.
Interestingly, Sharad Yadav paid tributes to Indira Gandhi's "intelligence, courage, and conviction" in a recent tweet.
Describing the relationship between Indira Gandhi and Sharad Yadav, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, who visited the latter's family on Friday to offer condolences, said: "He was a staunch political opponent of my grandmother (Indira Gandhi). He once told me that despite political rivalry, their personal equation was that of love and respect. I have learnt a lot about politics from him."
Rollercoaster Relations With Lalu and Nitish
"Lalu Prasad Yadav underwent a successful kidney transplant in Singapore. I wish Lalu ji and his daughter Rohini a speedy recovery and a long life, as well as congratulate all the family members," Sharad Yadav tweeted on 5 December, wishing the RJD chief a speedy recovery after his kidney transplant.
Through the years, Lalu Yadav and Sharad Yadav shared a love-hate relationship. From increasing proximity with Lalu from 1991, sticking with him after fallout in 1995 with Nitish Kumar and forming the RJD, parting ways in 1997 over fodder scam allegations on Lalu, and eventually contesting against him in 1999 from the Madhepura seat - Sharad Yadav was seen as trying to project himself as a 'educated and progressive Yadav' in Bihar.
He did win the seat in 1999, but lost in 2004. He joined hands with Nitish Kumar's JDU around 2000 and they together went on to end the 15-year-old Lalu rule in Bihar in 2005.
In 2017, he again had a fallout with Kumar over his decision to ally with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). He eventually floated the Loktantrik Janta Dal party in 2018, which merged with Lalu's RJD in March 2022.
After his demise, Lalu in a video message said that "despite differences, there was never any bitterness between them."
"Just got the sad news in Singapore of Sharadbhai's passing away last night. I feel very helpless. There was a meeting before I came here and we had planned a lot in the context of the socialist and social justice stream. I didn't want to say goodbye like this," Lalu said.
The Equation With 'Elder Brother' Mulayam Singh Yadav
Describing late Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav his "elder brother", Sharad Yadav on 22 November paid tributes on Twitter on his birth anniversary.
His first stint with Uttar Pradesh politics came after Sanjay Gandhi's demise. In 1981, Sharad Yadav was fielded to contest against Rajiv Gandhi from Amethi in the bypolls, a seat that was previously held by Sanjay. While Sharad Yadav lost that election to Rajiv Gandhi, he became the Rajya Sabha MP from Badaun in 1986 and won the Lok Sabha election in 1989 from the seat.
An influential leader by this time, Sharad Yadav is credited with playing a pivotal role in making Mulayam Singh the chief minister for the first time in the 1989 Janta Dal government in the state.
Union Cabinet Stint With Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government
On his birth anniversary, Sharad Yadav paid tributes to Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Yadav consecutively held three portfolios in Vajpayee's cabinet between 1999-2004.
Describing one of his first encounters with Vajpayee in the 1980s during a prayer meet in 2017, Sharad Yadav had narrated how Vajpayee had invited him to have lunch with him if he won an election from Jabalpur, which Yadav eventually did.
Equation With Sonia Gandhi
"Birthday wishes to Smt Sonia Gandhi ji. The birthday gift given to her by the people of Himachal in the form of victory (in Assembly elections) is the beginning of change for 2024," Yadav tweeted on 9 December, 2022 on Sonia Gandhi's birthday, a day after the Congress won the elections in Himachal Pradesh.
His equation with Sonia Gandhi was known to be mostly positive, with both coming out in each others' support at several occasions through the years. He was also one of the Opposition leaders who supported Sonia Gandhi's right to be PM amid the foreign origin controversy in 2004.
As the 'Mahagathbandhan' government in Bihar - comprising of the Janata Dal-United (JDU), RJD, and the Congress - eventually hit a rocky road and collapsed in 2017, it was Sharad Yadav who held frequent meetings with Sonia Gandhi while trying to keep the alliance intact.
Tribute to Savitribai Phule, But...
"I pay my humble tribute to Savitribai Phule ji on her birth anniversary, who dedicated her entire life for women's rights and educating women," Yadav tweeted.
Contrary to the principles of Phule, women's rights is one of Yadav's most controversial political stands. Yadav was known to be a staunch opposer of women's reservation in India's Parliament. In 2009, during a discussion on the issue, Yadav even threatened to drink poison. His arguments against the quota, however, were steered from the perspective of caste, saying that the reservation was being proposed to benefit upper-caste and urban women who were more privileged than the "rural and lower-caste women." Yadav proposed abolishing of caste system rather than the "tokenism of reservation." Interestingly, this was the time when India had its first woman President with Pratibha Patil.
In 2015, he again courted controversy while using 'dark-skinned south Indian women' as an example while arguing against a bill on foreign investments.
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