Azhar prepares for a new innings in Moradabad

March 29th, 2009 - 3:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Murali Krishnan
Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh), March 29 (IANS) Having weathered the storm on charges of match-fixing all these years and practically shutting himself from public eye, former Indian cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin is excited over his new innings as the Congress candidate from this ‘Brass City’ for the Lok Sabha elections.

“This is a different wicket where one cannot predict the bounce or turn. Let’s see how it plays out,” Azhar told IANS in an interview.

To that end, before he plunges headlong into his election campaign in this industrial township of western Uttar Pradesh, famous for its brassware, Azharuddin is keen to take a couple of days off to study the demography of this constituency and the extent of its youth population.

“It is very important to know the aspirations of the youth. They are a sizable population and I need to understand their pulse,” said an elated Azharuddin after the Congress party announced his candidature from Moradabad.

“For me, it does not matter where I stand from. I was on Cloud 7 when I joined the Congress, now I am on Cloud 9,” Azharuddin said as he prepares himself for a gruelling campaign over the next month.

Azharuddin, 46, who joined the party last month amid much fanfare, was initially being considered from Secunderabad, then Tonk in Rajasthan and even adjoining Meerut in Uttar Pradesh before the party leadership finally settled on Moradabad, which boasts of a huge Muslim population.

The city, with a population of over 1.7 million, has more than 400 factories manufacturing brass, aluminium, iron and glass products. Almost all big European and American retailers including Wal-Mart, Carrefour, JC Penny, Target and Casto Rama source merchandise from Moradabad.

“To tell you the truth, I am confident yet a little nervous about the election. But I have set out to do something for the people and I am honest about that unlike other politicians,” Azharuddin maintained.

The former stylish batsman, who was handed a life ban by the Indian cricket board in 2000 for his alleged involvement in match-fixing, felt that education and health were two areas where India would have to improve considerably to bring the facilities on par with developed countries.

“These youngsters need a good education. Moradabad needs more doctors and engineers and I promise to work for that when I am elected. Health and basic facilities have to be improved,” exuded Azharuddin, who hinted at several surprises during the campaign.

Moradabad is also India’s polio hotbed and has often been accused by health experts of exporting the disease to neighbouring districts and states.

Azharuddin is also aware that Moradabad is communally sensitive and that was exacerbated after the Ram Mandir movement that began in 1989 and that riots have broken out there.

“Look I know it has a huge Muslim population. But I am going on stand a secular plank and will stick to that only,” he maintained.

According to him, his campaign will be bolstered by the presence of seasoned politicians and even star power.

“(National Conference patron) Farooq Abdullah will campaign and even (former cricket captain) Kapil Dev, who stood by me through my bad patch when I was banned from cricket, will canvass,” Azharuddin said.

And, with a glint in his eye, he exclaimed that workers from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Samajwadi Party were ready to cross over and campaign for him.

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