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A diverse crowd gathered at the Saifai mela ground in Etawah on Tuesday morning under overcast skies to pay their final respects to Mulayam Singh Yadav, the founder of the Samajwadi Party and a “son of the soil”. Among them was a 58-year-old woman from nearby Mainpuri district, a 15-year-old boy who credits his education to “Netaji”, and a mahant from Prayagraj who defended the former chief minister’s decision to order police firing on kar sevaks in Ayodhya in 1990 as being in accordance with the law.

The 58-year-old woman, Shridevi, expressed her close relationship with “Netaji” and her disappointment at not being able to reach the podium where his mortal remains were placed due to the large crowd. Shridevi and her sister-in-law, Amishri, made the journey to the funeral ground from their village in Mainpuri district, where Shridevi was born.

Despite their efforts to get closer to the podium, Shridevi and Amishri were turned away by security personnel and chose to watch from plastic chairs instead. Amishri expressed her desire to see “Netaji” one last time, recalling his assistance in her daughter’s marriage seven years prior.

In contrast, Vishal Yadav, a class X student, managed to reach the podium and expressed gratitude for “Netaji’s” support for his family’s education and his village’s development. Similarly, 62-year-old Rajkumar from Nagla Rao village credited “Netaji” with the infrastructure and employment opportunities in his village, declaring unwavering support for the Samajwadi Party in all elections.

Even a saffron-clad mahant from Prayagraj attempted to pay his respects to Mulayam Singh Yadav, despite the former chief minister’s decision to order police firing on kar sevaks in Ayodhya in 1990. The mahant, along with religious preacher Dinesh Chandra Shastri, emphasized “Netaji’s” commitment to Hinduism and the law, while also noting the presence of a large statue of Hanuman near the mela ground.

Lastly, Shubham Shakya, a medical representative from Karhal, expressed his excitement at the gathering of politicians, industrialists, and celebrities at the funeral, including the anticipated visit of the Prime Minister. Shakya recognized Saifai as the birthplace of a leader respected by all political parties.

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