Until the Samajwadi Party released its first list of candidates in March with Mulayam Singh Yadav’s name on it, many were uncertain whether the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav would actually contest the 2019 elections.
In February, the 79-year-old party patriarch surprised everyone by heaping praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the last day of the 16th Lok Sabha session. “I want to congratulate the prime minister that he tried to move ahead taking everyone along,” Yadav said. “I hope all members to win and return, and you [Modi] become prime minister again.”
Fellow party leaders blamed Mulayam Singh Yadav’s “failing health and memory loss” for his comments – a major reason his candidature was not seen as obvious. Yadav turns 80 this year.
In the end, he was given a ticket from his stronghold of Mainpuri, from where he ran against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prem Singh Shakya. The Congress did not field any candidate, and so it has been reduced to a direct contest.
The BJP has never won this seat, which is currently held by Yadav’s grandnephew Tej Pratap Singh Yadav.
Mayawati, once a rival who his party leaders allegedly assaulted in 1995, campaigned for Yadav in Mainpuri this time as her Bahujan Samaj Party allied with the Samajwadi Party for the elections. It was rich in symbolism but perhaps wasn’t necessary: as a voter told Scroll.in last month, even a buffalo would win Mainpuri with Yadav’s support.
Four of Yadav’s six Lok Sabha victories have been from Mainpuri – in 1996, 2004, 2009 and 2014. In 2004 and 2014, he vacated the seat as he had contested two seats and won both. He currently represents Azamgarh in the Lower House. This time, his son and party president Akhilesh Yadav is the candidate from that seat.
Born in November 1939 in the Saifai village of Etawah, Mulayam Singh Yadav first became an MLA at the age of 27. He went on to win eight terms in the Assembly. He was also chief minister of Uttar Pradesh three times – from 1989 to 1991, 1993 to 1995, and 2003 to 2007. Yadav also served as the defence minister between 1996 and 1998.
In 1992, he founded the Samajwadi Party, and led the outfit until he was sidelined by his son Akhilesh Yadav in 2017 ahead of Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Soon after, the father spoke of how his son had humiliated him even though he had let him become the chief minister in 2012. In August 2018, the veteran leader lamented at a birthday function that nobody showed him respect anymore, and said he hoped he would be honoured after his death.
Yadav had earlier said this will be his last election, and he had said he did not intend to become the prime minister in the event of a hung Parliament.