It is the practice not to speak ill of the dead, but with Mulayam Singh Yadav’s passing away, the chapter of atrocities inflicted upon supporters of the Uttarakhand Statehood Movement will only be partially closed. So, while it would be indecent to celebrate, it would be extremely hypocritical to express grief at his passing. Justice was never delivered to those who became victims of police firings during the agitation, particularly as regards the Rampur Tiraha, Khatima and Mussoorie incidents. Many of those who collaborated with Mulayam Singh when he was CM of UP have managed to whitewash their sins and bury their betrayals, but people who were witness to that period have not forgotten.
But Mulayam Singh represents more than just a tragic period in Uttarakhand’s history. Personally, as a human being, he was humble and soft-spoken. He was generous in spirit and a man of his word. Unfortunately, he also was one of those who either could not prevent or actively worked to destroy whatever was left of socialist idealism in the country. The Samajwadi Party that he came to lead was formed by a number of tall leaders that fell by the wayside or were rendered politically irrelevant once he became the ‘Netaji’. The party transformed from a political movement to a caste based dynastic entity – the personal property of Mulayam’s family. (A similar but much worse story unfolded in Bihar under Lalu Yadav.) His village Sefai went on to become under his son, Akhilesh, a symbol of self-aggrandizement, where the zamindari spirit was revived with the performances of Bollywood dancers.
Enough of the socialist sheen remained with Mulayam for him to become a legislator and parliamentarian several times, and even India’s Defence Minister. There were no ‘principles’ that ever got in the way of his pursuit of power and its consolidation in UP by forging the MY combine. His governance and policies may not have benefited the common person of his home state, but did help promote the hold of a few families among the Muslims, the price for which that community and UP continue to pay to this day. His presence did help paper over the many differences within the Yadav clan, but with his demise, Akhilesh will have a much harder furrow to plough. It may be that Mulayam’s passing will generate a sympathy wave, but it will require skill to profit from it. This Akhilesh will find hard to do, as he greatly lacks the essential personal humility that his father had. So, it will be hard to define what Mulayam’s legacy will eventually be in Indian politics.