Habiba Banu Tehsin, a veteran socialist hailing from Udaipur and former National President of the women’s wing of the Samajwadi Party (Samajwadi Mahila Sabha) has condoled the demise of Mulayam Singh Yadav, founder of the Samajwadi Party. She recalls the journey of Mulayam Singh from being a humble youth leader from a rural background to becoming an MLA for the first time and going on to lay the foundation of Samajwadi Party. Habiba Banu played a significant role in women activism and participation in the Samajwadi Party to facilitating the formation of the women’s wing, which came to be known as the Samajwadi Mahila Sabha.
Habiba Banu Tehsin was a member of the Parliamentary Board of the Samyukta Socialist Party (SSP) and Convener of the All India Samajwadi Mahila Sabha at the time of Assembly elections of 1967. Among the Assembly constituencies for which she had to recommend candidates was the Jaswantnagar seat in Uttar Pradesh.
Influenced by Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia’s ideology and politics, Habiba Banu moved from Udaipur to UP in 1963 and became an active leader of the Socialist Party. She says that the then senior socialist leader Rajnarayan was influenced by young Mulayam Singh’s activism, while another leader Commander Arjun Singh Bhadauria considered another worker as a candidate. Habiba found Mulayam Singh to be a humble but dedicated and combative worker, and saw that there was more inclination towards Mulayam Singh among the public and party workers. She went on to recommend Mulayam Singh for the ticket and even held an election meeting for him during the campaign. Mulayam went on to win his very first election and never forgot the support of Habiba Banu.
Subsequent to the demise of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia and later the split in the Janata Party, Habiba Banu and her husband Rajanikant Verma distanced themselves from active politics. However, Rajanikant Verma played a vital role when Mulayam Singh Yadav formed the Samajwadi Party in 1992. Verma wrote the first biography of Mulayam Singh, titled ‘Mulayam Singh Yadav: Ek Jhujhaaru Vyaktitv’.
As the Samajwadi Party took shape, Mulayam Singh called on Habiba Banu, who was then in Udaipur, for the re-establishment of the Samajwadi Mahila Sabha. Mulayam Singh invited Habiba Banu to Lucknow, and she was elected the President of the Uttar Pradesh Samajwadi Mahila Sabha. On her request, Shanti Naik, a veteran socialist from Maharashtra, became the National President of the Samajwadi Mahila Sabha. After the demise of Ms. Naik, Habiba Banu became the National President of the Samajwadi Mahila Sabha, a post on which she served for more than a decade.
During her tenure, units of the Samajwadi Mahila Sabha were formed across other States. Women from non-political backgrounds were absorbed in the organization and got associated with the socialist movement and electoral politics.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, the then Chief Minister of UP, took steps on proposals related to women's education, health, cleanliness and self-esteem, which were passed in the convention of the National Executive of the Samajwadi Mahila Sabha that was held in Lucknow on April 30, 1994. Mulayam Singh released a booklet titled ‘Samajwad, Yuvjan aur Parivartan’ written by Habiba Banu to inspire the youth at the convention of the National Executive of the Samajwadi Party in 1995.
Habiba Banu handed over the responsibility to the younger generation in the middle of the first decade of the Twenty–first century. However, she remained a member of the National Executive of the Samajwadi Party for a few more years on the insistence of Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Paying homage to the socialist leaders Jayaprakash Narayan on his birth anniversary (October 11) and Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia on his death anniversary (October 12), Habiba Banu Tehsin says that the contribution of Mulayam Singh Yadav in popularizing socialist ideas and politics of egalitarianism and religious syncretism (Sarv Dharm Sambhav) on the national stage after the '80s will be remembered for ever.