He has made his way up from the grass-root level. Not for nothing is Mulayam addressed as 'dhartiputra' (son of the soil). He is an old wrestler who has a good grip over the UP election scene. Mulayam has fought and floored many a rival in the election akhada (ring).
Netaji, as he is known among his followers, knows all the tricks of the trade. His mastery over the caste calculus of UP is almost unmatched, never mind if he has had to deploy bullies to succeed in his quest for power. Many a time he has successfully exploited muscle power to win assembly or Parliament seats.
His definition of a 'criminal' is not what a normal law-abiding citizen would accept. Anyone who supports Mulayam is projected as law-abiding. His supporters's criminal or other antecedents do not deter Mulayam from embracing them.
From the notorious Latoori Singh Yadav to people like Atiq Ahmed to Hari Shankar Tiwari to Mukhtar Ansari and Amarmani Tripathi, his supporters cover the entire spectrum.
This tried and tested Mulayam technique of yore was foiled during the 2007 UP assembly election, thanks to the strict implementation of election rules and laws by the chief election commissioner under stern vigil by the central police forces.
His reputation and Mayawati's [ Images ] social engineering combined to reduce his Samajwadi Party's strength in the state assembly.
Today, Mayawati is unfortunately following him in his footsteps.
This Mallika-e-Uttar Pradesh treats the state's ganglords like her beloved 'navratnas'.
At least 10 such individuals have been handpicked to fight the Lok Sabha election under her Bahujan Samaj Party banner.
Varanasi has the tragedy of seeing a scholar like Dr Murli Manohar Joshi [ Images ] pitted against Mukhtar Ansari!
Bizzare, isn't it? This is thanks to Mayawati and her version of a clean society.
And that is the real tragedy for the helpless and hapless law-abiding citizens all over UP.
Mulayam is fortunate to have a mirror image of a rival in Mayawati. The lady has brazenly squandered away her hard-earned goodwill by enthusiastically and needlessly aping Mulayam.
It is ironic and sad that Mulayam who, till the other day, was hated and reviled, is once again staging a limp comeback on the UP scene.
Were he to contend with honest politicians like Narendra Modi [ Images ], Nitish Kumar or Sheila Dikshit, Mulayam would have been buried politically.
But thanks to Mayawati, who is furiously and frantically competing with Mulayam in progressive degradation, Mulayam has gradually retrieved some prestige.
The parliamentary election will see a wily Mulayam clawing back with his vote base. He has now roped in Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan and his meager support base in UP.
Yadavs, Lodh Rajputs, Paasi, Thakurs, motley backward communities, not to mention the bewildered Muslims -- they all seem to be once again helplessly reconciling to Mulayam as the lesser of the two devils in UP.
Mulayam's decision to join forces with Kalyan Singh [ Images ] seems to only affect educated urban Muslims. Most illiterate rural Muslims still seem to veer around Mulayam.
Mulayam has been somewhat stumped by Mayawati who has given tickets to 14 Muslims. This may give her an edge in the community.
Their support to her Muslim candidates coupled with a galvanised chunk of her Dalit voters aided by the Brahmins of UP will pose a formidable challenge to Mulayam's poll strategy.
In the next few weeks he will do his best to persuade the Muslims about his pro-Muslim bona fides.
Of course, the Mayawati-Lalji Tandon association as well as the looming possibility of her joining hands with her three-time ally, the BJP, will be tom-tommed all over UP's Muslim strongholds and madrassas.
Trust Mulayam and his general secretary Amar Singh [ Images ] to exploit this distinct possibility with escalating ferocity during this polling season.
The UP Muslim's psyche is currently disturbed and confused.
A desperate triangular tug-of-war is fiercely being fought among Mulayam, Mayawati and the Congress party led by Sonia Gandhi [ Images ]. All three parties are resorting to every imaginable trick to attract and influence crucial Muslim voters.
This is Mulayam's last major political battle for survival. His loyal supporters are desperately trying to retain his earlier score of 35 MPs.
But Mayawati wants to eliminate him politically and aims to surpass his previous score and to reduce Mulayam's tally.
Both leaders are going to be in for major surprises. Pleasant or unpleasant, the guess is yours.