Sharad Yadav, the ardent socialist

Sharad Yadav: An earthy politician, Yadav would always be seen in dhoti and kurta, and was one of the pre-emergency Janata Dal leaders who rose in politics, with a strong anti-Congress stand, and a carved a niche for himself in the 1980s and post-Mandal 1990s.

Sharad Yadav
Former union minister Sharad Yadav vacating his 7, Tughlaq Road residence in New Delhi last year. Express file photo.

Socialist leader and former Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav passed away on Thursday at a hospital in Gurugram at the age of 75.

Condolences poured in for the politician cutting across party lines. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “pained” by the passing away of the distinguished MP and minister, who was “greatly inspired by the ideals” of socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia.

“Pained by the passing away of Shri Sharad Yadav Ji. In his long years in public life, he distinguished himself as MP and Minister. He was greatly inspired by Dr. Lohia’s ideals. I will always cherish our interactions. Condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti,” PM Modi tweeted.

President Droupadi Murmu, Vice-president Jagdeep Dhankar, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, party leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi also offered their condolences. “Serving the country as a former Union minister and an outstanding Parliamentarian for decades, he strengthened the politics of equality,” Kharge said in a tweet in Hindi.

Sharad Yadav at Delhi airport on his arrival. Express archive photo by Virendra Singh 7.6.1997

Sharad Yadav was greatly inspired by Ram Manohar Lohia

Born on July 1, 1947, the year India attained independence from British colonisers, Yadav was a gold medallist in engineering from Jabalpur Engineering College. He was born in the Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh, and rose through the ranks as a youth politician, greatly inspired by socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia, to a seven-term Lok Sabha and four-term Rajya Sabha member.

An earthy politician, Yadav would always be seen clad in a dhoti and kurta, and was one of the pre-Emergency Janata Dal leaders who rose in politics, with a strong anti-Congress stand, and carved a niche for himself in the 1980s and post-Mandal 1990s.

His entry into national politics was dramatic. It was Yadav’s Lok Sabha bypoll win from Jabalpur in 1974 as the opposition candidate against the Congress which invigorated its political fight against the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. When the 1975 Emergency was imposed in the country by Gandhi, he won again in 1977, establishing his credentials as one of the several leaders to have come out of the anti-Emergency movement, an image that kept him in good stead for decades as he remained an MP for the better part of the last nearly five decades.

In 1989, he was a minister in the V P Singh government and also served as a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in the late 1990s, where he held the portfolios of Civil Aviation, Labour and Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

Backed Lalu and helped him become CM

His backing of Lalu Prasad Yadav was one of the reasons behind the RJD leader becoming the CM for the first time in 1990. Yadav had once told The Indian Express, how then PM VP Singh had almost decided on Ram Sundar Das as the CM of Bihar. It was Yadav who convinced the then deputy PM Choudhary Devi Lal to hold a contest among CM nominees from the Janata Dal.

The political leader Lalu Prasad Yadav and Sharad Yadav. Express archive photo

However, both leaders fell apart later. Lalu and he locked horns in Lok Sabha polls and his win over the Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo in Madhepura in 1999 was a high point of his career. When Yadav joined hands with Nitish Kumar and their alliance with the BJP ended the long 15-year-old stint of Lalu and his wife Rabri Devi, who had taken over the CM after Lalu got embroiled in graft charges.

Yadav was the convener of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) before he had to reluctantly leave after Kumar decided to snap ties with the saffron party in 2013. The veteran leader was instrumental in Kumar’s alliance with arch-rival Lalu Prasad Yadav when they came together to decimate the BJP in the 2015 Bihar elections.

However, when Kumar again decided to jump ship and head to the BJP, Yadav lost his patience and decided that he would remain in the Opposition camp, and backed some of his supporters to float the Loktantrik Janata Dal. However, due to his poor health conditions, that never took shape and put an end to his career in active politics.

Ill health ended career in active politics

The former union minister in the last few years was not keeping well, pushing him to the margins. The socialist leader was suffering from kidney-related issues for a long time and regularly underwent dialysis. He was rushed to a hospital in Gurugram after he collapsed at his Chhatarpur residence in Delhi on Thursday.

Sharad Yadav at the parliament in the capital New Delhi in 2017. Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal.

A statement from the Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurgaon said Yadav was brought to the emergency ward in an unconscious and unresponsive state. “On examination, he did not have any pulse or recordable blood pressure. He underwent CPR as per ACLS protocols. Despite best efforts, he could not be revived and was declared dead at 10.19 pm,” the hospital said in its statement.

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First published on: 13-01-2023 at 11:21 IST
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