Singh began his political career with the Congress and was close to former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Veer Bahadur Singh (1985-88). However, he rose to prominence only after he joined the Samajwadi Party in 1996 and became friends with party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. Such was his hold over Yadav during his tenure as UP CM (2003-07) that he alienated other senior leaders of the party from him.
This later led to Amar Singh’s bitter parting with SP in 2010 once Akhilesh Yadav began to gradually take over the reins of the party.
In the earlier avatar of the Samajwadi Party, Singh was a round peg in a square hole. While the party swore by socialism, Singh virtually changed the DNA of SP by introducing it to the glitz and glamour of the film industry and the capitalists of Mumbai.
Singh was mired in several controversies during his political career and would even claim to revel in them.
When the Left parties withdrew support to the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-I government over the Indo-US Civil Nuclear deal in July 2008, Amar Singh reached out to the Congress and promised to get them the required numbers in the Trust Vote in Lok Sabha.
Amar Singh was named in a sting operation where one of his staff members was caught on camera offering cash to three BJP MPs for their support in the 2008 Trust Vote. Later these MPs placed wads of cash in the Lok Sabha on July 22, 2008 and alleged that they were offered bribes by SP to vote in favour of the government.
Amar Singh introduced Yadav, a rustic wrestler-turned-politician from Saifai in Etawah district of western Uttar Pradesh, to the world of Bollywood and the capitalists of Mumbai. Superstar Amitabh Bachchan and his wife Jaya (who has been a Rajya Sabha MP from Samajwadi Party since 2004 with a short gap in 2010-12) came in contact with the SP Chief through Singh.
Singh’s close associate and actor-politician Jayapradha also joined SP. Singh spiced up the Saifai annual fest, which was only known for sale on cars and cattle, with Bollywood actors performing there. Singh was often seen at Bollywood awards functions, a rare sight for a politician.
Business tycoon Anil Ambani also came in touch with Mulayam Singh Yadav through Amar Singh and even became an Independent Rajya Sabha MP in 2004 with SP support. However, he quit his seat two in less than two years. Kumar Mangalam Birla, Adi and Parmeshwar Godrej, and Sahara India Chief Subrata Roy Sahara were also drawn to SP reportedly after some persuasion from Amar Singh.
The former SP leader was caught in an audio tape scandal where he purportedly is in conversation with Bollywood actresses. Singh also got former US President Bill Clinton to Lucknow during SP rule in UP. He claimed to have contributed to the election funds of the Democrats.
Amar Singh style of functioning and his growing clout led many of Mulayam’s close friends, who had been with him through thick and thin, to leave the party. Beni Prasad Verma left to join the Congress and so did actor-politician Raj Babbar. Azam Khan and Amar Singh continued to be at loggerheads for many years. Even Mulayam’s younger brother Shivpal was opposed to Singh. All these leaders held Amar Singh responsible for creating differences between them and Mulayam.
In January 2010, Singh had to resign from all party posts- he was a general secretary and had other responsibilities in the organisation. A month later, Mulayam expelled him from the party. He continued to be a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Though he owed his success to a great degree to his closeness to Mulayam, Singh would often rue that he had lost his kidney (he underwent a transplant in Singapore) in the service of his party but did not get his due.
Singh expressed pride in having led a hedonistic life and enjoyed his share of all things good. But for a politician, his was a lonely death away from all the limelight.