Sharad Yadav: From Jabalpur to Madhepura, the social stalwart who traversed political landscapes
Sharad Yadav was in jail when he contested the Jabalpur by-poll in 1974 as a people’s candidate against Congress. Yadav was an experiment by the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan who banked on a student leader to contest against the INC candidate at its own bastion.
The notion of the people’s candidate (candidate of the united opposition) gained traction after Yadav’s victory in the election and rattled the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, setting the tone for the national emergency in the following year. In 1977 when the country recovered from the depredations of emergency Sharad Yadav won again and stepped his foot inside the parliament first time.
After the 1980 split of the Janta Party, Yadav joined the Charan Singh faction. Charan Singh decided to pitch Yadav from Badaun, but congress had a sweeping victory owing to the massive sympathy wave post Indira Gandhi's assassination that led to Yadav's defeat in 1984 general elections.
Evolution as a champion of social justice
However, the defining moment came in 1990 when Sharad became the Union cabinet minister for the first time in the V.P Singh government. He played a key role in the implementation of the Mandal Commission report, which advocated reservations for the Other Backward Classes. Protests broke out against the “affirmative action” policy of the V.P. Singh government, these protests had the joint backing of the Congress, BJP and the left wing. The trio of Sharad Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan, and Lalu Yadav stood steadfast in their support of Mandal against the heavy headwinds blowing against it. The persistent advocacy of the Mandal Commission recommendations earned Sharad Yadav the metaphor 'Mandal Messiah'
The man in whom Lalu found a 'mentor'
The same year Sharad Yadav also played a key role in the appointment of Lalu Prasad Yadav as the Chief Minister after the victory of Janta Dal in Bihar. Sharad, who was appointed the Janta Dal observer for the state of Bihar devised tricks that paved way for Laloo's victory later. At Lalu's insistence, Sharad Yadav made Bihar his Karma Bhumi.
In 1991, Sharad Yadav contested from Madhepura on the Janta Dal ticket defeating the Janta Party candidate. His victory was against heavy odds and was in the face of congress wave post the Rajiv Gandhi assassination. Sharad Yadav represented the seat four times and in 1999 he defeated his friend-turned-foe Lalu Yadav himself.
Reluctant ally of NDA
After the split in Janta Dal, Sharad shaker hands with Nitish Kumar. Yadav had always opposed the 'communal forces' but at the insistence of Nitish he decided to support the BJP and accepted the candidature of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was considered to be the liberal face of saffron party. As a part of the government, he helmed the Civil Aviation portfolio as a cabinet minister over the years he also headed various ministries like labour, Consumer Affairs and Food Distribution.
Transformation of Janta Dal
While in government he also saw that Janta Dal was strengthened and oversaw the merger of Samta Dal. The newly formed party was called Janta Dal (United) and Sharad Yadav was elected the President, a post he held till 2016.
It was under his leadership that the party won the Bihar Assembly election in 2005 in alliance with BJP ending 15 years long of rule of Lalu Yadav led Rashtriya Janta Dal regime.
Over the years, he remained steadfast to the cause of the marginalized sections of society. He offered vocal support to the extension of OBC reservation in Higher Education in 2006 and was undeterred by the opposition.
Although he did not oppose the 33% reservation for women in Parliament but advocated caste-based reservation within the proposed reservation. He pushed the Congress-led UPA government to conduct caste census in 2011.
Aversion to Modi-led BJP
Sharad Yadav-led JD(U) distanced from NDA in 2013, when Bhartiya Janta Party, the biggest party of the alliance decided to project Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2014 Loksabha election.
Life came a full circle for him when, he along with Nitish Kumar reached for rapprochement with friend turned foe Lalu Prasad Yadav. Subsequently, a grand alliance was formed consisting of RJD, JDU and the Congress, which swept the Bihar Assembly elections of 2015.
In the last years of his life Yadav was forced to sever ties with JD(U) when Nitish Kumar dumped the grand alliance with RJD and formed government with the BJP.
Consequently the former JD(U) President was disqualified from the Rajya Sabha and also removed from the party in 2017. In 2018, he formed Loktantrik Janta Dal, only to merge it with RJD of Lalu Prasad Yadav, two years later.
In 2022, he was forced to vacate his Lutyens bungalow, a house he and his family had lived for 22 years. Despite the setbacks, Yadav remained committed to his ideals, till his last breath. After his death tributes have been pouring in from all quarters. He is survived by his wife Rekha and Children Subhashini Bundela and Shantunu Bundela.
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