NEW DELHI/LUCKNOW: Even as India was pre-occupied with the threat of a looming Corona pandemic, Amar Singh managed to intrude into political chatter with the simple words “Tiger Zinda Hai”. It was his way of announcing that reports of his death were not true. Singh did not live long after that March tweet from a Singapore hospital but it captured the man. He was a man of words, but also garrulous. He was aware of his importance and preferred to be pompous.
From the humble beginning as “punter” of Kolkata Congress leaders in the ’70s to Thakur Amar Singh of the ’90s who was sought after by netas, corporate houses and celebrities in distress, his metamorphosis is a tale that has long peppered gossip sessions of Delhi and Mumbai evenings.
He shot into national prominence virtually overnight when he emerged as the Man Friday of then Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav in the late ’90s. Singh hand-held the rustic leader through his natural barriers with industry and the upper classes who had emerged politically critical in the post-liberalisation era.
What the modern era would remember about him was his nimble-footed shuffling across the political divide. His bid to break through the Congress citadel post 2004 is a story that put him in the national spotlight for years. Having defeated Vajpayee’s BJP and formed UPA, Congress was in no mood to forgive and forget Mulayam, who had snubbed Sonia Gandhi in 1999 when the BJP government fell by one vote. For 10 years, the Congress leadership left him at the mercy of its managers as it secured the support of SP’s large contingent in Lok Sabha for minor favours which mostly went undelivered.
It was during these years that Singh became a permanent feature on national TV, regaling with his ditties and one-liners if also with jibes that bordered on profanities. He also became infamous for “recording telephones” to “arm-twist” rivals.
Amar Singh was once seen to be part of a quartet. Anil Ambani, Mulayam Singh and Amitabh Bacchan were friends he hung out with. He later fell out with most of them. Subsequently, he would tell journalists that he was the “father” of cash-for-votes, warning that he could spill some embarrassing beans. Singh’s split with the SP in 2017 turned him bitter. He tried his best to be rehabilitated but failed.
For over a year, he had receded from public view. The “Tiger Zinda Hai” tweet was his bid to recapture spotlight.


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