Amar Singh, a politician with relations across the spectrum, dies at 64

Former SP leader and RS MP Amar Singh was undergoing treatment in Singapore

Amar Singh, a politician with relations across the spectrum, dies at 64

Amar Singh. File photo

K V Prasad

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 1

Amar Singh, who passed away at Singapore on Saturday following prolonged illness, was one of his kind among hoards of politicians in the Capital.

For over a decade he strutted around the corridors of powers with a reach across a wide spectrum of people and personalities.

Having found little success in the Congress party, Amar Singh’s political graph rose during the 1996-98 days of the United Front Government as he struck a unique relation with ‘Netaji’ Mulayam Singh Yadav, the powerful chief of the regional Samajwadi Party (SP).

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“Saddened to know about the death of senior leader and parliamentarian Amar Singh,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted.

Earlier in the day, the former Samajwadi leader had posted messages on Twitter, paying tributes to Bal Gangadhar Tilak on his 100th death anniversary and also wishing people on Eid.

For a person who was equally at ease with the glamour world of Mumbai to corporate honchos, Amar Singh became the ‘go to’ person in Delhi for his ability to get things done by working on the phones. The early days of post first-phase of liberalisation saw Amar Singh play a role in giving a push to reforms in telecom and petroleum sectors, a contribution recalled by former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh today.

That Amar Singh was highly driven is a trait acknowledged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who in his tweet recalled him as an energetic public figure who witnessed some of the major political developments from close quarters and known for friendship across many spheres of life.

Amar Singh’s closeness to Netaji became part of the political folklore, making many wonder how a person who did not hide his connections with the rich and glamorous, could be part of a charmed circle of Yadav, the wrestler-turned-politician in a socialist mould. The association of an unabashed consumerist in a socialist set up caused deep dismay among ‘Lohia ke Log’ (Followers of Ram Manohar Lohia) in the party.

The magic was not limited to Netaji. Amar Singh’s appeal extended to veteran Marxist Harkishan Singh Surjeet to some extent. So much so, when Amar Singh who portrayed himself as one who could get political leaders of diverse views break bread together, was not invited to the celebratory dinner hosted by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi in May 2004, it was Surjeet who took him along.

Yet, in 2008 it was Amar Singh’s intervention that made Yadav change his stand and support the nuclear deal that nearly wrecked UPA-1.

Amar Singh, the once powerful general secretary of the Samajwadi Party, found his utility diminishing and over the next few years his ties with the party strained to the extent that he was out of it in 2010. While he remained a Rajya Sabha MP at the time of his death, his overtures to the new BJP-led dispensation found little political traction.