Mulayam Singh Yadav, a former wrestler, was known to be an astute politician.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, Samajwadi Party founder and three-time Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, died this morning after weeks in hospital. He was 82.
The Samajwadi Party quoted Mulayam Singh's son Akhilesh Yadav as saying: "My respected father and everyone's Neta-ji has died."
Mulayam Singh had been critical for days and had been on life-saving drugs at Medanta Hospital in Gurugram. He was to turn 83 in six weeks.
"Mulayam Singh Yadav's death pains me; he was a remarkable personality and was widely admired as a humble and grounded leader," wrote Prime Minister Narendra Modi, one of the first to post his tribute.
"He was a remarkable personality, widely admired as a humble and grounded leader," he said.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Aditanath said he felt deep sorrow and announced three-day state mourning in the state.
Many leaders visited Mulayam Singh in hospital in his final days.
Though he had been away from active politics for a while, with his son Akhilesh leading the party since 2017, he was counted among prominent opposition forces in the country. For the Samajwadi Party, he remained "Neta-ji" - a term that even his son used for him.
One of Uttar Pradesh's top politicians, Mulayam Singh was also Union Defence Minister in 1996-98.
PM Modi said as Defence Minister, Mulayam Singh worked for a stronger India. "His Parliamentary interventions were insightful," the Prime Minister said.
In 2019, Mulayam Singh praised PM Modi in parliament, even wishing for his return as Prime Minister after the national election. The opposition benches were stunned.
Born on November 22, 1939, Mulayam Singh first became an MLA in 1967. During his second term as MLA, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared the Emergency and Mulayam Singh, like many opposition leaders, went to jail.
Mulayam Singh was elected 10 times as an MLA and seven times as Lok Sabha MP. For a while, he was even seen as a candidate for Prime Minister.
A former wrestler, Mulayam Singh was known to be an astute politician who didn't flinch when it came to striking deals, even with bitter rivals.
For power in Uttar Pradesh, he joined hands with Mayawati's BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party), the BJP or the Congress whenever he needed to.
In his long career, he was affiliated to a series of parties - his mentor Ram Manohar Lohia's Sanyukt Socialist Party, Charan Singh's Bharatiya Kranti Dal, Bharatiya Lok Dal and Samajwadi Janata Party. He founded the Samajwadi Party in 1992. In 1996, when opposition parties tried to form a non-BJP alternative to the Congress, Mulayam Singh was briefly among the candidates for PM.
In the last few years, Mulayam Singh saw the party he founded slipping away from him and into the hands of his son Akhilesh Yadav, who became chief in 2017 after a coup.