A sea of people attended the last rites of Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav at a state funeral in his hometown Saifai in Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday afternoon.
Top leaders from mainstream political parties, including UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar, Telugu Desam Party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, Congress leader Mallikarjuna Kharge, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, actor Abhishek Bachchan along with his mother Jaya Bachchan, Yog Guru Swami Ramdev attended the funeral.
Several supporters of Mulayam Singh Yadav openly wept amidst intermittent drizzle, as the leader’s mortal remains draped in party flag, and later in national tricolour, were brought to Saifai amidst chanting of slogans ‘Nataji Amar Rahen’. People came on foot, and in cycles, motorbikes, cars and SUVs to attend the funeral. Akhilesh Yadav, Shivpal Yadav and other family members were on board the truck that carried the mortal remains of the leader.
My association with Mulayam Singh Yadav spanned more than three decades. I had the fortune of watching him from close and I had gained his affection through a close relationship. He came to my show ‘Aap Ki Adalat’ four times, but not even once, he ever took umbrage to my questions. He replied in his own inimitable manner and never tried to dodge questions. His repartees were also quick and witty.
Apart from his public life, I had a personal bonding with ‘Netaji’, fondly called by his relatives and supporters. He knew how to value relationship and accord respect to others. This was a sterling quality in his persona.
I remember those days when Mulayam Singh, as chief minister, used to come to the door to receive me and then accompany me to my car when I was leaving. We find few such leaders who have such manners nowadays.
I still remember when I went to his residence to request him to come to my show for the fifth time, he replied, “Ab hamen chhodiye. Ab Akhilesh ko bulaiye”. (Now please leave me. Call Akhilesh to your show). Mulayam Singh told me, “we want Akhilesh must learn how to reply to questions”. Whenever I spoke to him about his son Akhilesh, Mulayam Singh used to say, he loved his ‘Tipu’ (affectionately called) very much and wanted to see him scale the heights of success.
‘Netaji’ belonged to the generation of leaders who believed in keeping direct contact with their party workers. I have seen Mulayam Singh having sores on his feet, after walking for miles throughout the day. I have also seen how Mulayam used to sit on the ‘charpai’ (wooden cot) in villages and call his party workers by name. That was how he managed to expand his party in village after village of UP.
Times changed but Mulayam Singh Ji never changed with the times. His relationship with his party workers continued as usual. His workers never considered him as a leader, but as the head of their family.
For Akhilesh Yadav, it will be a big challenge to preserve this rich legacy, of how to keep contact with party workers and how to accord respect to political rivals. One should learn such manners from Mulayam Singh.
Mulayam Singh had ideological differences with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but Netaji always respected the dignity of the post of when Modi was CM and later the Prime Minister. Both the leaders had a bond of mutual respect for several decades.
When news about Mulayam Singh’s passing away came, Modi was in Gujarat. While addressing a huge rally in Bharuch on Monday, Modi said, “When we were both chief ministers, we had a lot of affinity with each other. When I was nominated by BJP as the PM candidate in 2013, I called up several opposition leaders to seek their blessings. Mulayam Singh Ji was among them. I still remember Mulayam Singh Ji’s blessings and words of advice, which remain special to me.”
Modi also recalled Mulayam Singh’s words on the last day of the last session of 16th Lok Sabha in 2019, just on the eve of general elections. Mulayam Singh had then said, ‘I want to congratulate the Prime Minister for he tried to move ahead taking everyone along. I hope all members win and return to this House, and you (PM Modi) become the Prime Minister again.’ On Monday, Modi recalled this comment, and said: ‘What a large heart! From Gujarat’s soil, I offer my heartfelt tribute to him.’
It is difficult to sum up Mulayam Singh’s life in words alone. He remained active in political life till his last breath, but he was facing several age-related health problems. Yet, he was never tired, and he never accepted defeat. For the last several years, he was suffering from weak memory. He used to speak about the old days, about Socialist Party stalwarts Dr Ram Manohar Lohia and Janeshwar Mishra. It was Lohia who brought Mulayam Singh into politics, and helped him to carve his space in public life.
It was Janeshwar Mishra who nurtured his political career and leadership qualities. Clearly, Mulayam Singh Ji was remembering the great contributions of these stalwarts during his last days. He never forgot his legacy. The passing away of Mulayam Singh at the age of 82 marks the end of an era in Indian politics. I shall always remember his large heartedness, his affection and his smile. On behalf of the family of India TV, I offer my humble tributes to him.
Aaj Ki Baat: Monday to Friday, 9:00 pm
India's Number One and the most followed Super Prime Time News Show 'Aaj Ki Baat- Rajat Sharma Ke Saath' was launched just before the 2014 General Elections. Since its inception, the show is redefining India's super-prime time and is numerically far ahead of its contemporaries.