Samajwadi Party (SP) founder and former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mulayam Singh Yadav passed away in Gurgaon on Monday. He was 82 years old.
Yadav was in poor health for some time and was admitted to a hospital in the city on August 22. He was shifted to the ICU on Sunday afternoon. The party confirmed his passing in a tweet.
Born in a small village Saifai in the Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh, on November 22, 1939, Yadav was a trained pehelwan (wrestler). He joined politics in the early 20s of his life, and there was no turning back.
Addressed as Netaji by Samajwadi Party members, Yadav was one of the towering leaders of Uttar Pradesh. He went on to lead the most populous state in the country three times as the chief minister.
His political career can be divided into two phases — pre-Samajwadi Party era (from 1967-1992) and after he formed the Samajwadi Party (1992-to date).
In the pre-SP era, he was groomed by veteran leaders like former PM Charan Singh, Ram Manohar Lohia and Raj Narain. However, he was a part of several political parties that emerged and disappeared in that era.
In 1967, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh for the first time contesting on the ticket of the Samyukt Socialist Party from the Jaswantnagar constituency.
It was during the national emergency of 1975, imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, that Mulayam Singh’s political career got the push. He was arrested and remained imprisoned for 19 months during the period.
Things started changing for him in Uttar Pradesh rapidly after that. In 1980, he became the president of Lok Dal. In 1982, he became the Leader of the Opposition in UP’s assembly.
In 1989, Yadav became the state’s chief minister for the first time with the support of the BJP. His term lasted only two years.
In 1992, Muyalam Singh Yadav formed the Samajwadi Party. In an interesting turn of events, SP joined hands with the Bahujan Samaj Party and managed to keep the BJP out of power in the 1993 Assembly elections. He became the chief minister for the second time and had the support of Congress and VP Singh Janata Dal. His second stint as the CM was marred by his controversial stance on several sensitive issues. He was against the formation of the new state Uttarakhand (formerly known as Uttaranchal).
This stint was marred by an incident in Muzaffarnagar when seven activists demanding the creation of a separate Uttarakhand state were shot dead in police firing on October 2, 1994.
The decade of 1990 was probably the most turbulent time in national politics. In 1996, Yadav contested the Lok Sabha elections from Mainpuri and won comfortably. SP got 17 seats in the general elections. The United Front formed the government, and Mulayam Singh Yadav became the country’s defence minister. However, the Third Front government did not last long and collapsed in 1998.
In the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, Mulayam Singh won both Sambhal and Kannauj seats but vacated Kannauj. This paved the way for his son, Akhilesh Yadav’s entry into politics as a candidate from Kannauj.
To keep Yadav out of power in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP and BSP formed an alliance, and Dalit leader Mayawati became the chief minister. However, due to political differences, BJP withdrew support from Mayawati, and the state went into elections again. In the following elections, Muyalam Singh’s SP won, and he assumed office as the chief minister for the third time.
His third term as CM coincided with the Lok Sabha election of 2004. SP performed exceptionally well in those elections, winning 37 seats in Uttar Pradesh. However, Congress was able to form the government with the support of communist parties, and the SP was not included in the government despite announcing unilateral support for it.
In 2007, Mayawati returned to power in the state with an absolute majority, ousting Mulayam Singh. This was the last time he was the CM of the state. Despite ruling the state three times, Yadav was never the CM for a full five-year term.
Yadav was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2009 from Mainpuri. In 2012, SP once again returned to power with a thumping majority. However, this time Mulayam proposed the name of his son Akhilesh Yadav to become the chief minister. In 2017, SP was ousted by the BJP.
SP faced another shocking defeat a little earlier in 2014 when BJP swept the state with 73 seats in the Lok Sabha elections. SP managed to win only five.
Mulayam continued his winning streak and was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014 and 2019.
Controversies and highlights
He was surrounded by controversies more often than not. His party famously came out with the slogan “Sansad Mein Mulayam, toh Uttar Pradesh Kayam” (Mulayam in Parliament, keeps Uttar Pradesh integrated) to oppose Mayawati’s idea of splitting Uttar Pradesh into three states.
His remark on men and rape earned him severe criticism from everywhere. Speaking on Tibet, he said that India needs to recognise Tibet as an independent nation and that Pakistan is not the real enemy, China is.
Before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Akhilesh Yadav announced an alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party. In the initial phase, MSY was not on board with the idea and openly expressed as much but later supported his son. SP did not do well in those elections.
In the build-up to the 2019 election, a feud broke out between Akhilesh and his uncle Shivpal. Being the party supremo, Mulayam sacked Akhilesh from the party. Later, Akhilesh took over the party after a tussle with his father and uncle.
With his health deteriorating, Mulayam Singh refrained from coming out in public in the final stage of his life.
Yadav was married to Malti Devi. In 1973, after the birth of his son Akhilesh, Malti Devi suffered from complications and remained in a vegetative state till her death in 2003.
Yadav had a second son (Prateek) with Sadhna Gupta, whom he married in 2007. Gupta passed away in 2022 after a brief illness.