Azharuddin meets Congress leaders, may join the party (Lead)

January 23rd, 2009 - 12:52 am ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiHyderabad, Jan 22 (IANS) Former Indian cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin Thursday met senior Congress leader M. Veerappa Moily, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and other top leaders of the ruling party and expressed a desire to join the party.”Azharuddin met us today and expressed his desire to join the party,” Moily, Andhra Pradesh incharge, told reporters. The Congress leader said Azhar also agreed to campaign for the party in the ensuing elections. “The party will use his services,” was all he said when asked if the party would field him in the coming elections.

The meeting with Congress leaders took place within a few days of his meeting senior party leaders in Delhi and speculation that he is joining the Congress and would be contesting the Lok Sabha elections.

Azharuddin drove to the Lakeview Guest House and met the chief minister, Moily and state Congress president D. Srinivas. Congress sources said the meeting lasted for an hour.

Moily was holding talks with ticket aspirants for the upcoming polls to the state legislative council when the former cricketer arrived to meet him and other leaders.

Azharuddin refused to speak to media persons.

Moily said Azhar recently met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and discussed various issues.

Congress sources said Azhar would soon be joining the party and contest Lok Sabha elections. The sources indicated that Azharuddin might be fielded from Secunderabad Lok Sabha constituency.

They dismissed speculation that the former captain would be fielded from the Hyderabad constituency, which is a stronghold of Muslim political party Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), an ally of the Congress. They pointed out that MIM president and sitting MP from Hyderabad Asaduddin Owaisi is also one of Azharuddin’s close friends.

Speculation of Azharuddin joining the Congress started a couple of days ago when he reportedly met some central leaders of the party in New Delhi. Azhar had denied the media reports but did not rule out taking a plunge into politics.

Rajasekhara Reddy had expressed confidence that Azharuddin would join the Congress because he is a close friend of a senior state Congress leader, Kiran Kumar Reddy.

Azharuddin’s sudden interest in politics has baffled people here as he was keeping a low profile ever since he was banned from playing cricket for his alleged involvement in match fixing almost a decade ago.

He had also cut down on his public appearances after he divorced his first wife Naureen and married an actress, Sangeeta Bijlani.

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