Socialist leader Mulayam Singh Yadav cremated at his native village Saifai

People in large numbers were headed Tuesday for the last rites of veteran socialist leader Mulayam Singh Yadav at his native village Saifai in Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh, the intermittent morning drizzle adding to the sombreness.

Samajwadi Party founder and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister passed away aged 82 at a private hospital in Gurugram on Monday.

His mortal remains were brought to Saifai Monday evening and kept at his ‘kothi’ where thousands descended to pay their last respects to “Netaji”, as Yadav was fondly called.

Party workers and people in their hundreds — riding cycles, motorcycles, cars, SUVs and other means of transport — were headed to Saifai from nearby areas Tuesday morning for the final rites.

In her condolence message, President Droupadi Murmu Monday described Yadav as “Dharti Putra” – a moniker bestowed on the socialist leader for his growth as a political heavyweight from the grassroots level.

“Yadav was hugely popular among the locals for his conenct with the masses,” Manoj Mishra, a native of Etawah told media, reminiscing how ‘Netaji’ knew people of the region by their first names.

As it drizzled Tuesday morning, hundreds of people queued up outside Yadav’s ‘kothi’ for his the final darshan.

Among them was a group of six men who had come from Chunar village in Mirzapur in eastern UP.

“We left village in an auto for Mirzapur railway station. Boarded a train at 11 pm and reached Etawah around 7 am,” Babu Nandan Yadav told to media after Yadav’s darshan.

Meanwhile, preparations were underway for the last rites of Yadav at Saifai amid heavy security presence and large public turnout.

The cremation is scheduled in the afternoon. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chhatisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar are likely to arrive here during the day.