Politicians on Monday hailed 82-year-old Samajwadi Party founder and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav as the leader of the marginalised, hours after he died due to a prolonged illness.

“The champion of the interests of the marginalised and backward: Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav ji steadfastly fought against religious bigotry at a crucial time for India, upholding the unity and integrity of India,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted, expressing his condolences to Mulayam Singh Yadav’s son Akhilesh Yadav.

Mulayam Singh Yadav was undergoing treatment at the Medanta Hospital in Gurugram from August 22. His condition had deteriorated on October 2, following which he was shifted to the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.

His last rites will be held with full state honours in Etawah district’s Saifai, his ancestral village. A three-day state mourning will be observed for the Samajwadi Party founder, announced Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath as he expressed his grief on Yadav’s death.

“His death marks the end of a major pillar of socialism and an era of struggle,” Adityanath tweeted. “I pray to God for the peace of the departed soul and express my condolences to the bereaved family and supporters.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that Yadav was a key soldier for democracy during the Emergency. “As defence minister, he worked for a stronger India,” he wrote on Twitter. “His Parliamentary interventions were insightful and emphasised on furthering national interest.”

President Droupadi Murmu said achievements of Yadav, who came from an ordinary environment, were extraordinary. “He was respected by people of all parties,” she added. “My deepest condolences to his family members and supporters.”

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said a huge vacuum in Uttar Pradesh and national politics has been created due to Yadav’s death. Shah also visited the Medanta Hospital to pay his tributes to the Samajwadi Party founder.

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said Yadav could talk about many subjects with a very open mind. “Interactions with him on many occasions will always be fresh in my memory,” he added.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said that Yadav’s contribution to Indian politics and advocacy for social justice will always be remembered.

Her brother and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi hailed the former Samajwadi Party chief as a “true warrior associated with grassroots politics”.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor described Yadav’s death as a “great loss” to all Indians.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma described Yadav as a leader of the masses who was “adored by many across party lines”.

“His dedication to uplift the downtrodden throughout his lifetime will remain one of his greatest contributions,” Sangma tweeted. “My deepest condolences to his family, his followers & all his admirers.”

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao remembered Yadav as a man who “worked for the welfare of the poor and underprivileged communities” in Uttar Pradesh.

“Shri Mulayam Singh entered politics inspired by leaders like prominent socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia and freedom fighter Raj Narayan,” Rao wrote on Facebook.

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said Yadav stood strong against communal forces and worked for creating a socialist society.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin described Yadav as “one of the tallest figures in Indian politics who stood for reservation for the OBC”. Stalin said that the politician was deeply committed to secular ideals, adding that his death is an irreparable loss.

Former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said he has lost a brother.

“Over 4 decades, I have had the fortune of spending plenty of time with the OBC stalwart who always impressed me with his charm, humility and deep understanding of Indian politics,” Naidu wrote on Twitter.

Born in November 1939 in Saifai, Yadav first became an MLA at the age of 27. In 1992, he founded the Samajwadi Party and went on to represent the constituencies of Mainpuri, Azamgarh and Sambhal in Lok Sabha.

Yadav served as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh three times – from 1989 to 1991, 1993 to 1995 and 2003 to 2007. He also served as the defence minister between 1996 and 1998 in the United Front governments led by HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral.

A teacher by profession and wrestler by training, Yadav faced electoral losses after he ordered firing on kar sevaks at the peak of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in 1990. He, however, made a comeback by portraying himself as a saviour of the Constitution and on a strong Muslim-Yadav alliance.

In 2012, after his party won the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, Yadav handed the chief minister’s position to his son Akhilesh Yadav.

However, infighting grew in the family due to his decision to pass the baton to his son, ultimately resulting in him expelling Akhilesh Yadav from the party in 2016, a year ahead the Uttar Pradesh elections. However, the father and son patched things up and Akhilesh Yadav took over the party.

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