Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh, who once wielded immense influence in power circles as a close aide of Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, died on Saturday in Singapore where he was undergoing treatment for kidney-related ailments. He was 64.
The Rajya Sabha MP, who was under treatment in Singapore, had undergone a kidney transplant in 2011 and was not keeping well for a long time. He was admitted to the Singapore hospital eight months ago.
Singh is survived by his wife Pankaja and two daugthers -- Drishti and Disha.
"Amar Singh Ji was an energetic public figure. In the last few decades, he witnessed some of the major political developments from close quarters. He was known for his friendships across many spheres of life. Saddened by his demise," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said he was saddened to know about the Rajya Sabha MP's demise and offered his condolences to the bereaved family.
वरिष्ठ नेता एवं सांसद श्री अमर सिंह के निधन के समाचार से दुःख की अनुभूति हुई है। सार्वजनिक जीवन के दौरान उनकी सभी दलों में मित्रता थी।स्वभाव से विनोदी और हमेशा ऊर्जावान रहने वाले अमर सिंहजी को ईश्वर अपने श्रीचरणों में स्थान दें। उनके शोकाकुल परिवार के प्रति मेरी संवेदनाएँ।— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) August 1, 2020
Tributes poured in for Singh, with Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu expressing sorrow over his death at a relatively young age. Noting that the country has lost an able parliamentarian, Naidu said, "Shri Singh was popular across the political spectrum and always strove for the uplift of the downtrodden and marginalised sections of society."
"My sincere condolences to the family of Shri Amar Singh ji. I express my deepest condolences to his bereaved wife and daughters in this sad moment," Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted.
BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy were among those who condoled Singh's death.
राज्यसभा सांसद अमर सिंह जी के दुखद निधन पर मेरी गहरी संवेदनाएं। ईश्वर से प्रार्थना है कि वे दिवंगत आत्मा को शान्ति प्रदान करें एवं शोक संतप्त परिजनों को यह आघात सहने की शक्ति दें। RIP #AmarSingh ji.— Jyotiraditya M. Scindia (@JM_Scindia) August 1, 2020
Saddened to learn about the passing away of seasoned politician and Rajya Sabha MP, Shri Amar Singh ji. My deepest condolences to his family and friends in their hour of grief. May God grant eternal peace to the departed soul. Om Shanti!— Dharmendra Pradhan (@dpradhanbjp) August 1, 2020
Amar Singh MP and a person I have known for long, died today. Although he was mostly with SP, but he made friends across the spectrum of political https://t.co/sq1ncErLyj condolences to his family— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) August 1, 2020
Earlier in the day, the former SP leader had posted messages on Twitter, paying tributes to Bal Gangadhar Tilak on his 100th death anniversary and also wishing people on Eid.
A colourful and flamboyant politician who often did not pay much heed to demands of political correctness in his interactions, including with media, Singh shot into the league of political bigwigs as Yadav's confidant. Many believed that Yadav liked Singh for his cross-party and industry links, and go-getter attitude that helped his party navigate demands of realpolitik.
Singh is believed to have played a crucial role in swinging the SP's support for the UPA in 2008 after the Left parties withdrew their support due to their opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal.
In 2015, a book by an American author claimed that Singh contributed between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation in 2008. The author also speculated whether Singh "was a conduit for other powerful interests in India pushing for approval of the nuke deal". Singh had denied the allegations.
However, with the emergence of Akhilesh Yadav as the main face of the SP and his aging father Mulayam's control declining, Singh's influence started waning. With opposition to him growing within the party, Singh was first expelled in 2010. Later, his name emerged in the alleged cash-for-vote scam and he was arrested in 2011.
Singh did not spare even Mulayam Singh Yadav as he fought for political relevance, and he was back in favour with the party patriarch after a few years of political oblivion. It was said Yadav needed him as much as he needed him, and he was sent to the Rajya Sabha again in 2016.
During his first stint with the SP from 1996 to 2010, Singh built an extensive network for the party, and was often spotted with celebrities, from the Bachchans to Anil Ambani to Subrata Roy. But as Akhilesh Yadav got control of the party, he was expelled again in 2017.
Since then he had warmed up to Modi and the RSS, and announced his decision to donate his ancestral properties in Azamgarh to the Hindutva organisation. He was also seen as the brain behind the SP's decision to send industrialist Ambani to Rajya Sabha in 2004 as an independent member. Ambani, however, later resigned in 2006.
It was he who brought actor Jaya Prada, who was once a Telugu Desam Party MP, into the SP, and she was elected to Lok Sabha from Rampur twice. She stayed loyal to Singh and left the party with him. It was believed that the BJP named her as its candidate from Rampur in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls at his behest. She, however, lost to her bete noire Azam Khan.
Singh counted megastar Amitabh Bachchan and his family as friends before they had a fall out. Bachchan's wife and actor Jaya Bachchan remains a Rajya Sabha member of the SP. However, in February Singh took to Twitter to regret his "overreaction" against Amitabh Bachchan.
In March, scotching rumours of his death, Singh had posted a video titled "Tiger Zinda Hai!!" on Twitter, saying he is awaiting surgery in a Singapore hospital and would be back soon.