Azharuddin begins innings in politics under media glare (Lead)

February 19th, 2009 - 7:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiNew Delhi, Feb 19 (IANS) Calling himself the “child of destiny”, former India cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin stepped into politics Thursday when he joined the Congress in the presence of hundreds of media personnel.
“I am here to help the Congress and I have to do good work for the people and for the party,” the Hyderabad-based Azharuddin, removed from the team after his alleged involvement in match fixing, told journalists at the party headquarters here.

Congress general secretary and Andhra Pradesh in-charge M. Veerappa Moily and other party leaders were present when the announcement was made.

Azharuddin, 45, drove up to the Akbar Road headquarters of the party in a white Mercedes and was instantly mobbed by camera crews and reporters jostling with one another to catch on to every word he spoke.

“I am happy to join the Congress but I cannot decide from where I will contest the elections as now I am not the captain,” Azharuddin said while announcing his decision to join the Congress.

“I have been called the child of destiny, and destiny has played its hand again. I have a lot of respect for the Congress party as it has contributed significantly to the freedom struggle.”

“The party has also made sacrifices and I have a lot of respect for Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi,” he added.

He said Rajiv Gandhi was the first person to call him to congratulate him in 1985 when he made a world record three centuries in England.

“I will work to bring laurels to the party and will contribute in all constructive ways in which the party wants me.”

Replying to questions regarding Azharuddin’s alleged involvement in match fixing controversies in the past, Moily said: “I know him personally for the last 25 years and he is a nice man. He has been the most successful Indian captain and has yet not been proven guilty by a court of law”.

That Azhar was joining the party was on the cards for over a month. He met several Congress leaders last month, including Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and Moily. He also met Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

One of India’s most successful cricketers, Azharuddin’s innings came to an abrupt end after a disciplinary committee of the Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) imposed a life ban on him in December 2000.

Azharuddin challenged the ban in court. The case is dragging on. Azharuddin now runs a successful event management firm as well as a health club called Est.

His entry into politics coincides with another cricketer, Chetan Sharma, joining the Bahujan Samaj Party.

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