He was known as 'Dhartiputra' and remained a true son of the soil. His style of politics was firmly grounded and success and failure did not affect him.
Mulayam Singh Yadav was one of the last of his generation of politicians who kept his values intact and did not corporatize his politics.
For him, the last man in the line remained important - whether it was from his family, his village or his state. He was a friend of friends and even turned his foes into friends.
Mulayam Singh had first contested the Assembly election from Karhal in 1967 on Ram Manohar Lohia's Samyukta Socialist Party ticket.
Groomed by the likes of Ram Manohar Lohia and Raj Narain, Yadav served eight terms as the member of the state Assembly.
In 1975, during Indira Gandhi's imposition of the Emergency, Yadav was arrested and kept in custody for 19 months.
He first became a state minister in 1977. Later, in 1980, he became the president of the Lok Dal in Uttar Pradesh which later became a part of the Janata Dal.
In 1982, he was elected leader of the opposition in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council and held that post until 1985. When the Lok Dal party split, Yadav launched the Krantikari Morcha party.
Mulayam Singh Yadav first became the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1989.
Being a shrewd politician, he had the uncanny knack of sensing the upheavals in politics.
After the collapse of the V.P. Singh national government in November 1990, Yadav joined Chandra Shekhar's Janata Dal (Socialist) party and continued in office as the chief minister with the support of the Congress.
His government fell when the Congress withdrew support in April 1991 and Mulayam Singh lost to the BJP in the midterm elections.
In 1992, Yadav founded his own Samajwadi Party and then allied with the Bahujan Samaj Party for the elections to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, held in November 1993.
The alliance between the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party prevented the return of the BJP to power in the state and Yadav became the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh with the support of Congress and Janata Dal.
Mulayam's stand on the movement for demanding separate statehood for Uttarakhand was as much controversial as his stand on the Ayodhya movement in 1990.
The firing on Ayodhya activists and then Uttarakhand activists at Muzaffarnagar on October 2, 1994 remained black spots of his regime.
In 1995, the SP-BSP alliance broke with the infamous State Guest House incident but Mulayam Singh Yadav made sure that his party bounced back to power in 2003.
He was sworn in as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh for the third time in September 2003.
Yadav contested the 2004 Lok Sabha elections from Mainpuri while he was still Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. However, he later resigned from the Lok Sabha and continued as chief minister till 2007 when the SP lost to the BSP in the state elections.
Mulayam Singh Yadav was one of the few politicians who blatantly promoted nepotism and had no qualms about it. At any given time, there were about a dozen family members in politics in Uttar Pradesh.
"He always pushed us into politics and asked us to make a career for ourselves. It was always he who decided what was best for us and took keen interest in our careers," said one of his nephews.
Mulayam Singh valued his friends deeply. Whether it was Beni Prasad Varma, or Azam Khan or Mohan Singh or Janeshwar Mishra - each one had a special place in his life.
His war with Balram Singh Yadav and Darshan Singh Yadav in Etawah had acquired legendary proportions, but Mulayam, over a period of time, managed to change his equations and both became his friends.
Mulayam shared a love-hate relationship with the media. His famous 'Halla Bol' agitation against some newspapers grabbed national headlines.
However, Mulayam made sure that his individual relationship with journalists never deteriorated. Even if he ticked off a scribe for his writing, he made sure to call out to him and mend fences at the earliest.
For party workers, he remained their beloved 'Netaji' - one who was always approachable and available.
"I do not remember a single occasion when I went to meet Mulayam Singh and came back without doing so. He remembered even the smallest party worker by name and it was this that endeared him to everyone," said a senior party MLA.
Mulayam Singh Yadav was one chief minister who enjoyed full loyalty from his bureaucrats. He took tough decisions and his officers implemented them. In fact, many claim that the politicisation of bureaucracy began only after Mulayam became the chief minister.
In the past five years, after Akhilesh Yadav took over the reins of the party, Mulayam had withdrawn into a shell.
The changing dynamics in the party reduced the stream of visitors into a trickle and Mulayam for the first time, became a lonely man.
"He would often ask us if there was anyone waiting to meet him. He loved going to the party office and relished the hustle-bustle there. At home, he had almost nothing to do and this bothered him," said one of his close staff members.
Mulayam was disturbed by the recent happenings in his family daughter-in-law Aparna joining the BJP, the split between son Akhilesh and brother Shivpal. He made no public mention of it but it was clear that he was deeply affected by what was happening.
The demise of his second wife Sadhana Gupta Yadav in July this year, sources say, left Mulayam distressed and lonely and this led to a deterioration in his physical condition.