Former Chief Minister (3 times) of Uttar Pradesh and leader of the Samajwadi Party, Mulayam Singh Yadav, passed away this morning. He was 82.
In opposition politics, he was considered to be crucial, but in recent years, his health problems kept him from becoming a major player on the national scene.
Mr. Yadav, who previously served as the country’s Defense Minister, was affectionately known as “Netaji” by Samajwadi Party fans and leaders.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when demonstrations and agitations over the Mandal Commission, established to identify the socially or educationally backward classes in India, were at their height, the former wrestler became a political celebrity in UP.
In later years, Mr. Yadav gained a reputation for working with not only allies but even enemies, as seen by his partnership with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati to form a brief coalition government in UP.
Mr. Yadav’s run-in with federal authority was as dramatic as his rise to prominence in UP politics.
He joined the United Front government in 1996 and quickly rose to the position of Defense Minister. Mr. Yadav had promised Congress leader Sonia Gandhi his party’s backing, but changed his mind in 1999 after the central government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee fell.
An ill Mulayam Singh Yadav handed the party leadership reins to his son Akhilesh in 2012, when the Samajwadi Party regained power in UP. But as tensions rose inside the family, he startled everyone by booting Akhilesh out of the party in 2016, right before the pivotal 2017 UP assembly elections. Akhilesh reconciled with his father and eventually became the party’s de facto leader.