Azharuddin pitches in Moradabad for a different game
After playing for 16 years on the cricket fields, former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin is ready to play a completely different game, promising the people of Moradabad that he was was here for a "long innings" in politics.india Updated: Apr 09, 2009 09:27 IST
After playing for 16 years on the cricket fields, former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin is ready to play a completely different game, promising the people of Moradabad that he was was here for a "long innings" in politics.
Azharuddin looked cool in blue jeans, matching blue T-Shirt and dark glasses, preferring this casual outfit to the trademake kurta-pyjama of a typical politician. Many in the crowd, specially the young, copied his jaunty style and raised collar.
"I have come here to stay and will stay in Moradabad," Azharuddin, who belongs to Hyderabad, told a gathering of his party workers in a jam-packed hall in this crowded city famous for its brass industry.
Azharuddin told his excited Congress party workers: "I have been a captain of the cricket team and I believe in playing a long innings. Some people tell me that I have already won the elections, but for me victory is not decided till last ball of the match," he said in fluent Hindi.
Azharuddin reached Moradabad, 180 km from Delhi on Tuesday, in a black Ford Endeavour to begin an intense phase of campaigning in a state where the Congress has not really been in the reckoning for many years.
As soon as he got down from his car, a large crowd gathered there, with people struggling to have a glimpse of the cricket star who was making his debut in politics.
"I have come here to see my hero. I have been his fan for long and feel fortunate to see him in real life," Pervez Alam, a local resident who said he will vote for him, said.
Azharuddin listened patiently to all speakers of the district Congress committee even as he gave autographs and posed for snaps with youngsters who had come to meet the former stylish wristy batsman.
"I thank for all the advice. Advices had helped me in the game of cricket and will help me here also. I will learn a lot from all of you," he said.
Azharuddin, 46, joined the Congress party February 19 amid much fanfare. He was initially being considered as a candidate for Secunderabad, adjacent to his home city of Hyderabad. Tonk in Rajasthan and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh too were considered for him before the party leadership settled on the 'brass city', where Muslims constitute 45 percent of the population.
Moradabad, with a population of over 1.7 million, is famous for manufacturing brass, aluminium, iron and glass products and lies in the sugarcane belt of Uttar Pradesh.
The brass industry is having a bad time in the global economic recession and the expectations from a local MP is that he would be able articulate their problems in New Delhi and find solutions to them.
Farmers of the region, as anywhere else in the country, face a lot of hardship like lack of power, poor returns of their crops and delayed payments by sugar mills.
Azharuddin took note of their problems. "Don't think that I am a celebrity who is unaware of the problems of farmers. When I was young I used to work in the fields of my aunt. Even now I am ready to work for you and with you in your fields to solve your problems."
Asked about the hate speeches made by Varun Gandhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Pilibhit, only 150 km from here, Azharuddin said: "He should avoid making such statements. Such statements send a wrong message to the youth and would not get him votes.
"The common man needs solution to their everyday problems - rather than issues that divide people and incite hatred."
His main rival is Thakur Sarvesh Singh of the BJP, who is the sitting state legislator from the Thakurdwara constituency who is known to be close to party president Rajnath Singh. The third important candidate is Rizwan Ahmad of the Samajwadi Party who commands support of the substantial Turk community among Muslims.