By Harihar Swarup
Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was decorated with Padma Vibhusan (posthumously), this year, had a variegated career, having come hard way in his carrier. May 2007 was the darkest period of his life. He was trounced in Uttar Pradesh assembly election by his arch rival Mayawati who created a record by winning a majority for the first time since 1991. In May 2009 Lok Sabha election, Mulayam received yet another setback as number of his MPs came down from 36 to23. He had extended issue based support to the Manmohan Singh government.
In 2003, nobody thought that Mulayam could again become Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh but what was unimaginable had come true. He took over reign of the most populous state of the country for the third time and lasted the full term despite apprehension that he would not be able to steer the ungovernable state through. Though his parents have had given him the name “Mulayam”, he is tough in action and proved his critics wrong many times by sheer firmness of purpose.
Four decades back when the “Jat Patriarch” and former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh saw a young man jostling to meet him in a crowd of his party workers, his impromptu comment was: “yeh chottey kad ka admi, bade kam ka lagta hai”. With his long years of experience Chaudhary Saheb has spotted the talent in this “little follow” and simultaneously Mulayam Singh embarked on his turbulent career. Fired by the idealism of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia’s brand of socialism, he acknowledges that “Doctor Sahib has been my inspiration”. His critics say he belied the great socialist leader’s ideals. Having come under tutelage of Jat Patriarch, Mulayam Singh made his first mark in 1967; he hit the headlines by becoming the youngest member of the country’s biggest assembly. Even foresighted Chaudhary Sahib did not imagine at that time that Mulayam Singh would ever become UP’s Chief Minister and that too for the third time.
Nobody took Mulayam Singh seriously when he first became the Chief Minister and his government was thought to be a passing phase but he proved his critics wrong. In-built tenacity came to the fore when he rescued the Babri Masjid, which a year later Narasimha Rao government could not protect with its his might. Even though Mulayam Singh saved the Babri Masjid, the bold step cost him his government in 1991 and brought BJP to power in the sensitive state. Paradoxically, the Same Babri Masjid brought him back to power in 1993; he was vindicated. Mulayam Singh’s tenacity in saving what has come to be known as disputed structure made him a hero among Muslims and he got the nickname “Maulana Mulayam Singh”. He became the Defence Minister in the United Front Government and was in the run for the Prime Minister’s post when Dev Gowda government fell.
The criticism against Mulayam has been that he let loose a virtual caste war in the region of Agra and Avadh leading to confrontation between upper and lower castes. The charge of casteism has tarnished his socialist image and his adversaries openly hit out at him as an “opportunist” and “betrayer” of Dr. Lohia’s ideals. Administratively also his two terms in office were no better and governance remained at low key. Mulayam Singh eschewed his aggressiveness when Samajwadi party –BSP coalition was formed and Mayawati acted as super Chief Minister.
Stoutly built Mulayam Singh was a wrestler and his impressive performance at a bout against his powerful rival impressed the local MLA, Nathu Singh and he became his first political “Guru”. Mulayam met Dr. Lohia, for the first time, in 1966 when the socialist leader had come to Itawa to address a meeting. Doctor Sahib always encouraged dedicated and committed young men, keen to join socialist movement. He saw promise in Mulayam and picked him as a volunteer and backed his candidature in 1967 poll. Nobody thought that “this boy” has a chance against his formidable Congress rival. The young socialist sprang a surprise; he not only won by a huge margin but his rival lost security deposit. Mulayam Singh was only 28 at that time; he became member of the U.P. assembly. (IPA Service)