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Mulayam Singh Yadav: When heroes fall

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-03-2017 Amrit Raj

New Delhi: He is one of the tallest figures of Uttar Pradesh politics and a Ram Manohar Lohia disciple. Bicycle rider who started as a wrestler. A fighter who countered the then dominant Congress party and its goondagardi with his own henchmen. A socialist, who kept the company of Amitabh Bacchhan, Anil Ambani and Amar Singh. A patriarch whose family is in tatters; with stunted dreams of becoming India’s prime minister.

You name it. In his political career, Mulayam Singh Yadav has seen it all.

His party’s last tenure, which saw rise of his son Akhilesh Yadav as the chief minister of the state, was largely seen as one that had five and a half chief ministers with Akhilesh being the half.

“The fact that Akhilesh has managed to come out of that means that Mulayam’s time is over,” said a person who has closely tracked politics of India for over 20 years. He declined to be named.

“It is a very ruined...stained kind of legacy,” this person said.

Mulayam’s politics has been that of caste.

“Of UP’s chief ministers such as N.D. Tiwari, Kalyan Singh and Rajnath Singh; perhaps Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati were the ones who were least concerned about administration. For Mulayam Singh, it was only caste that he believed in would bring him back to power and not development,” said a former top UP government official who has worked closely with Mulayam.

However, many who have worked with him in the government vouch for him being a gentleman to the core.

“In all my time spent in the state under Mulayam Singh, never once was my work interfered upon; once I was given the charge. He may have all kinds of allegations levelled against him but he never like Mayawati mistreated the bureaucrats, who when empowered are the agents of change,” said a second retired UP government official who also didn’t wish to be named.

The Uttar Pradesh election results, one of the most fiercely fought in the recent times, may mark the end of an era and will bring down curtains on Mulayam Singh Yadav’s political career.

“Akhilesh has managed to do that to an extent. He represents the new face of Samajwadi party. A face that youth associates itself with. A face that gives people of India’s largest state some hope. A face that seems to have already overshadowed his father’s legacy,” said the political scientist quoted above.

Signs of him being pushed aside have been visible. First during the family drama that unfolded in January and in which his son, Akhilesh, came out victorious. That was followed by a vociferous election campaign for the seven-phase state election the Samajwadi Party-Congress under the leadership of Akhilesh Yadav and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi ran and which saw negligible presence of Netaji—as Mulayam is fondly called.

Mulayam Singh addressed three rallies—the first two to campaign for his younger daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav and brother Shivpal Yadav and ending with a public address in the Malhani constituency of Jaunpur on 5 March.

“He did represent that socialist aspiration,” the person quoted above said. “(But) once he became friends with Amar Singh and Anil Ambani and Amitabh Bacchan... To me, it was a vulgar show of wealth. His politics got perverted by association with Amar Singh. That was the time when people like Jnaneswar Mishra and Beni Prasad Verma began to leave him. I don’t think he could ever recover from there,” the person said.

Mulayam Singh’s era will also be associated with UP hooliganism, where people dreaded the likes of Raja Bhaiya. He could not contain the rogue genes of his party, bringing a bad name to the state that kept the investors away from the state and its youth unemployed.

“Mulayam and Mayawati have been the bane of UP’s development rigor mortis. It will be a herculean task to bring the state back on track,” said the second UP government official.

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