I'm no sacrificial goat: Azharuddin (Interview) (Election Special)
Mohammed Azharuddin is livid over speculation that he was being made a "sacrificial goat" in Tonk-Sawai Madhopur constituency in Rajasthan after the former Indian cricket captain didn't want to return to Moradabad from where he had entered the Lok Sabha five years ago.
Azhar looked visibly unhappy when asked why he has been shifted from Moradabad, in Uttar Pradesh, to the twin towns of Tonk-Sawai Madhopur and said it was not that he wanted the shift, it was the party's decision.
"I am no sacrificial goat, I have no reason to leave Moradabad. I have done good work there, created infrastructure worth crores of rupees in the last five years. I have helped a lot of people get jobs and treated of serious ailments," Azhar told IANS in a chat.
"I was happy serving the Moradabad constituency and now the party wants me to shift to Tonk-Sawai Madhopur, I have accepted the offer," said Azhar.
"As a cricketer I should be prepared to bat on any type of pitch, I can't be asking for a flat batsman-friendly wicket all the time," he said.
A large number of visitors from the twin towns visited Azhar at his New Delhi residence Wednesday to express their support. Congratulating Azhar, some of them said they were happy their town had overnight become an important destination for the international media thanks to the former captain who will try to retain the seat Namo Narain Meena won for the Congress in 2009.
Meena, minister of state for finance in the Manmohan Singh government, has shifted to neighbouring Dausa, facilitating Azhar's move to a constituency where Muslims form a sizable number of voters.
"I will try my best to win the seat for my party. I am sure the party leadership must have picked me to serve the constituency and my job is to win it for the Congress," said Azhar even as he kep thanking enthusiastic party supporters from the two towns and talked to a large number of television channels.
Among those who visited Azhar were local Congress leaders, social wokers and well-known citizens. "I will assure you that I will try and get industrial houses to set up their units in the two towns so that the youth there do not have to go out in search of livelihood," Azhar told them.
Sawai Madhopur has traditionally been a Congress seat, the party winning it seven times. The Bharatiya Janata Party won it thrice and the Swatantra Party won it twice in the 1960s.
"I know it's a backward constituency and, if elected, I will strive to work for its development, particularly in the fields of educations and sports by creating opportunities for youngsters."
Asked about speculation that he was seriously looking for a safe seat in West Bengal and had even sought the Trinamool's help, Azhar denied this, saying most of these reports were "highly speculative without any basis. I can tell you no seat is safe for any party".
"I just want to clear the ongoing rumours about me joining other parties. To clarify, It's always been Congress and it will always be," he tweeted.
(Veturi Srivatsa can be contacted at email@example.com)
(Posted on 19-03-2014)