SAIFAL: As scores of people thronged the funeral of Mulayam Singh Yadav on Thursday, the socialist leader's connect with them was apparent.
Almost every one had a story to tell: How they first got introduced to 'Netaji', or how humble and accessible he was even after he became a heavyweight in Indian politics.
Some recalled how, as a chief minister, Yadav would have his car pulled over to interact with villagers grazing their cattle in open fields, while many others thanked him for getting an inter-college for girls built in Bundelkhand.
Janak Singh (80) from nearby Chaubeypur said he knew Yadav from their early days and that he was fond of wrestling as well as enjoyed hosting Holi celebrations.
''That did not change even after he became the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and the defence minister. He was always accessible for us,'' Singh told PTI as he stood at the Mela ground with thousands others to pay their last respects.
Naresh Singh Yadav recalled that 'Netaji' gave the Kuthaund block in Jalaun district, which falls in Bundelkhand region, its first inter-college for girls.
''This happened soon after he became the chief minister for the first time in 1989. Until then, many girls would drop out of school after Class 5,'' he said.
He also credited Yadav's sensitivity towards education to being a school teacher before joining politics full time.
His elder brother Tej Singh Yadav (55) said he was a child when he was first introduced to Yadav.
''Netaji had come to Jalaun with Chaudhary Charan Singh (a farmer leader-turned prime minister), and I had gone to see them. After his speech, Charan Singh had asked the crowd to listen to 'his son' (referring to Yadav),'' he said.
Manoj Mishra, a native of Etawah but now settled in Greater Noida, said Yadav was a grassroots leader and knew people of his region by their first time.
''He had come for my wedding over two decades ago. He could not find rasgulle in the menu and asked me 'Guddu rasgulla nahi banwaye'? (Guddu, did you not get rasgullas prepared?) I immediately got him one on his plate which he ate happily,'' Mishra (55) recounted, highlighting Yadav's simplicity despite being a top politician.
Janved Singh Yadav from nearby Bakevar tehsil said the humility, accessibility and sharp memory to recall people by their names made the SP founder a 'Jan Neta'.
''His simplicity and humility is unmatched. There's no one like him left in Indian politics now, let alone a Samajwadi like him,'' he said.
The Bakevar native also recalled that 'Netaji' preferred meeting people of Etawah, Mainpuri and nearby areas at Saifai itself instead of the capital Lucknow.
''He would say why go all the way to Lucknow when I keep coming to Saifai, Etawah. Meet me here anytime. Let people from other places see me in Lucknow,'' Janved Yadav recalled.
Mulayam Singh Yadav passed away at the age of 82 at a private hospital in Gurugram on Monday. His last rites were held at his native village Saifai in Etawah district where a sea of crowd descended to pay tributes to him.