In the passing away of socialist veteran Mulayam Singh Yadav (82), Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have lost his one well-wisher across the aisle. Recalling an incident in the 16th Lok Sabha, Modi pointed out how he treasures to this day Mulayam’s words as a blessing; words that had stunned the entire Opposition. Modi said it was just ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Mulayam had predicted that he would return as PM. “Mulayamji had said he wanted to congratulate the PM for trying to move forward by taking everyone along. I hope you (Narendra Modi) will become the Prime Minister again. It was ahead of 2019 general elections when the opposition was planning to form a mahagathbandhan to take on Modi’s BJP. His statement had stirred the hornet’s nest, shocking his son Akhilesh Yadav too,” recalled Modi speaking at a rally in Gujarat. It is this penchant to throw surprises that has marked many upheavals in the long career of Samajwadi Party patriarch. Be it joining hands with BSP supremo Mayawati in 1993 to form a short-lived coalition government in UP or refusing to extend support to Congress President Sonia Gandhi to become PM after the fall of Vajpayee Government by one vote in 1999. Mulayam could have become PM in 1996 but his chances were scuttled by Lalu Prasad and Sharad Yadav — ironically, his kinsmen. Now, Lalu Prasad proudly talks of “Netaji” as a close relative since his daughter is married into Mulayam’s family.