Sharad Yadav is no more. He has had a long innings as a politician, and perhaps his biggest achievement apart from the seven terms in the Lok Sabha and three in the Rajya Sabha, has been his determination not to compromise with the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party. He might have flirted occasionally as part of political dealings, but to give Yadav credit he refused to cross over to either party directly or for that matter indirectly.

Sharad Yadav was a true son of the JP movement, and remained a socialist in his thought process at least till the end. He won his first election in 1974, went on to side with Charan Singh when the Janata Party split, and contested but lost his first election from Badaun as the Lok Dal candidate in 1989.

He joined the Janata Dal under VP Singh, and contested and won Badaun constituency in 1989, Yadav went on to become a Minister in the latters cabinet, and eventually the President of the Janata Dal. Later he buried the hatchet with Nitish Kumar, and joined the Janata Dal (U) as the national president.

I had known Sharad Yadav for a long time, seen the plus and the minus of his long innings in politics closely. He spent his Janata Dal days initially in competition with both Mulayam Singh Yadav in UP and Laloo Yadav in Bihar — in fact he went on later to contest against the Bihar chieftain and won from the Madhepura constituency. He won this seat four times, he was defeated an equal number of times.

He was most prominent perhaps as a leader of the Janata Dal. Arrogant, as power often makes politicians, Sharad Yadav had decided to extend his reach into UP. He, like most Janata Dal leaders, worked alone, as the party barely learnt to function as a team. All were individuals doing their own bit, and fighting with each other constantly. The party began to see a gradual exodus of its main leaders, with the infighting making it impossible for them to survive. I remember a very sad and chastened VP Singh when George Fernandes left the Janata Dal saying, :”I accepted all the others but feel very alone without him.I never thought George would leave.”

But leave he did. And in a candid conversation with me he named different leaders for messing up the party, and VP Singh for being a good man but unable to keep the flock together. Fernandes identified a couple of leaders for being more active in encouraging factionalism than the others and said, “you watch and see they will divide and subdivide the Janata Dal until everyone has left, and just the one or the two remain.”

That really is what happened. Towards the end Sharad Yadav was left alone carrying the JD flag. The party was rudderless, everyone of substance had died or left, with demise being pretty swift for an organisation that had stormed the Hindi bastions of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and shaken the larger national parties.

Sharad Yadav might not have been a team player in the political sense, but he influenced the course of politics as he was an active and articulate politician well connected with the districts and villages of UP and Bihar. He had his own support base, and during elections was active in ensuring that the candidates he had selected were given adequate representation by the party.

But despite all effort Sharad Yadav also did not become a Mulayam Singh or a Laloo Yadav, and I think he never really could reconcile himself to that. Or understand why the masses were not accepting him as they had the other two Yadavs.

Sharad Yadav, in power or out, was fairly accessible to the media. He liked a good chat and never really denied us access. As Minister and at the head of a flourishing party he was curt, and almost rude in these interactions but later he was far more amenable and always ready for a long discussion. He remained a strong voice against communalism although his position on women and hair cuts did create a furore. However, he was not more of a chauvinist than any other politician of his time – perhaps far less in real life.

He did not like most of his colleagues and although he joined the Janata Dal (U) his relationship with Nitish Kumar remained uneasy. He did not support the latter when he moved to the BJP, and was always critical of the move. Sharad Yadav had little time for either the BJP or the Congress, remaining a consistent part of the third front in body and spirit.

His death is a loss to the dreams of a third front, a dream that Sharad Yadav had himself never lost sight of. He always felt that it was a possibility but now perhaps no one is left in the political arena who shares the conviction that he held on till the very end. He was the last man standing in support of a third political alternative.