Sharad Yadav, a veteran socialist leader, has died at 75. The seven-time Lok Sabha and two-time Rajya Sabha MP had been unwell for some time and had kept away from active politics.
Sharad Yadav, a disciple of Ram Manohar Lohia, was born in Madhya Pradesh and won his first two elections in Jabalpur in the state but his “karmabhoomi” or political base was Bihar, where he mentored several leaders, including two Chief Ministers, Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar.
He also fell out with them for ideological reasons.
Sharad Yadav played the most important role in the rise of Lalu Yadav, one of the most charismatic leaders of socialist and later Mandal politics. It is not that well-known that had it not been for Sharad Yadav, Lalu Yadav wouldn’t have become Chief Minister in 1990.
After the results of the Bihar election in March 1990, former Chief Minister Ramsundar Das was considered the front-runner for the top post as he was backed by then Prime Minister VP Singh and his two powerful cabinet colleagues, George Fernandes and Ajit Singh.
But Sharad Yadav, with the blessings of then Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal, launched moves to outsmart VP Singh and ensure that all attempts at naming a consensus candidate failed. That meant voting in the legislature party. Both Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav were MPs at the time. Once Sharad Yadav landed in Bihar as an observer, he assessed that in a straight contest between Ramsunder Das and Lalu Yadav, the former has an edge.
Sharad Yadav reached out to former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, who was waiting for the right moment to take revenge on VP Singh for being denied the post of prime minister in 1989. Chandra Shekhar instructed his aide Raghunath Jha to join the race for the top post. Almost 12 Rajput MLAs supporting Chandra Shekhar voted for Raghunath Jha, which helped Lalu Yadav score a narrow win over Ramsundar Das.
It is an open secret that had Sharad Yadav not roped in Chandra Shekhar, then Lalu Yadav’s ambition of becoming Chief Minister would have remained unfulfilled.
The story was still not over. Even though Lalu Yadav was announced the winner of the legislature party vote, then Bihar Governor Yunus Saleem kept him waiting. There was talk of a revolt within and much suspense.
Once again, Sharad Yadav prevailed and ensured that the Governor’s invite went to Lalu Yadav.
Lalu Yadav, in Singapore for treatment, remembered his long association with Sharad Yadav in a moving tribute on video.
Referring to Sharad Yadav as “bade bhai” (big brother), the former Chief Minister said: “On many an occasion, Sharad Yadav and I fought with each other. But our disagreements never led to any bitterness.”
Sharad Yadav was forced out of the Janata Dal United, which he once headed, because of his rift with the de facto leader, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
The two had clashed when in 2017, Nitish Kumar went ahead with his plan to walk out of his alliance with Lalu Yadav and revive his ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP.
Sharad Yadav floated his own party. But Lalu Yadav gave him a chance to contest as a candidate of his RJD in the 2019 national election. In 2021, Sharad Yadav merged his party with the RJD. Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav had lately patched up.