| Mohammed Azharuddin with wife Sangeeta during the recent election campaign in Moradabad |
Calcutta: Now, its tough getting hold of Mohammed Azharuddin, Moradabads newest MP, but The Telegraph managed to speak to the 46-year-old former India captain, in the capital, for around 25 minutes on Sunday afternoon.
The following are excerpts
Q What was your first reaction on being declared the winner?
A Was overwhelmed... Till recently, I didnt expect to be in politics... Now, Im in the Lok Sabha... Thats why I got overwhelmed and, in a way, felt I finally got to play my 100th Test.
First to Allah, the almighty... Then my maternal grandfather (the late Mir Vajehuddin), my parents (Azizuddin, Yusuf Sultana) and the rest of my family... To the Congress workers, who slogged it out for weeks... Im also thankful to a group of friends, who left no stone unturned... Believe me, winning an election isnt easy.
Who are you dedicating the win to?
To the Congress... To Soniaji and Rahulji... To the people of Moradabad, who regularly face so much hardship... I wont betray their trust... Ive been given a big responsibility.
How did you and the family celebrate?
In cricket, you do so with teammates... The number of people is small... In politics, youve got to celebrate with thousands... Thats what I did last evening... Its after meeting and thanking as many people as I could that I came to Delhi...
Frankly, how confident were you of making it to the Lok Sabha?
I was confident and, to be honest, a bit nervous as well... Playing cricket was different as I had the bat in my hand and could do as I wished... Plus, theres a clearly demarcated field in cricket... Politics is very, very different and youve got to convince lakhs... Youve got to win their trust.
You won big, almost by 50,000 votes...
Not bad for a first-timer!
In terms of achievements, where does this win compare with your cricket feats?
A strict comparison cant be made... However, it could be on a par with my No.1 achievement in cricket a hundred in each of my first three Tests (at home against England, in 1984-85, beginning with 110 at the Eden).
What did the punishing campaign teach you?
The importance of patience, reminded me of the value of hard work... (After a pause) I saw so much poverty... Lack of electricity and sanitation... Indeed, I met so many women in the villages, probably 75-80 years old, whod never been exposed to electricity... Yes, I saw a lot in the past few weeks.
Were you drained after meeting them?
Actually, I felt so fortunate... Im obliged to try and help them, as also others... Im duty-bound to try and improve the quality of their lives... Trying to do so is, after all, in my hands.
Why did Moradabad give you the thumbs-up?
Probably because the people got convinced that Id do something for their area... Moradabad just hasnt seen any development for decades... As Ive told you, electricity is such a big issue... In fact, its an issue across UP... The voters probably saw me as one without a vested interest... Somebody with only one agenda: To help develop Moradabad.
Did you, at any time, feel like an outsider?
I wasnt made to feel like one... Nobody spoke to me in those terms... I know my opponents tried to make it an issue, though. They failed.
Having been a sophisticated citywallah, campaigning in the villages must have called for much adjustment...
The reality is that Ive always been most comfortable with people who are down to earth... I didnt find it tough at all.
How often will you be in Moradabad?
Five-six days every month... Its a three-hour drive from Delhi, where Ill have to shift base (from Hyderabad).
What was it like to campaign for other Congress candidates?
A good experience...
Did anybody from the cricket fraternity campaign for you?
Kapilpaaji... He spent around three hours and, as expected, was such a huge hit.
Will you be raising sports-specific issues in the Lok Sabha?
Would depend on the issues.
The Congress did rather well in UP. What made the difference this time?
Policies of the Congress-led government at the Centre... The partys secular credentials... The values it stands for... The campaigning done by Soniaji and Rahulji... The youth, I believe, voted for us in big numbers.
Have you met Sonia and Rahul after winning?
I just finished making a courtesy call (around noon) before speaking to you... Rahulji was busy, but I did meet Soniaji... She was happy that the Congress regained Moradabad after 25 years.
Theres a clamour for Rahul to at least be a cabinet minister. Your take?
Rahulji definitely has the ability... Manmohanji has gone on record saying hed like him to be in his team...
A straight question: Are you yourself hoping to be inducted in the council of ministers?
The party will decide. Its the partys call.
Okay... Are you seeing yourself as a Muslim leader?
No, no... My estimate is that I got 60,000 votes from the Hindu community... So, that says something, doesnt it? I wouldnt like the label of a Muslim leader and Im obliged to work for all... Ive got the opportunity to give something back to every section of society, not just one community.
Navjyot Sidhu, who had a problem with you on the 1996 tour of England when you were the India captain, has been re-elected to the Lok Sabha on a BJP ticket. Could there be awkward moments between the two of you?
I dont expect uncomfortable moments... In any case, both of us played together for some years after 1996... I dont hold grudges... Dont have regrets either.
Finally, are you worried that some may again raise the match-fixing bit?
(Emotionally) If it were an issue, would I have been elected? The people have given their verdict... I must add that theres no case against me in court... The only case Im involved with is the one Ive filed against the Board of Control for Cricket in India (for the life ban, when one short of 100 Test appearances).
Note: While Azhar polled 3,01,283 votes, his nearest rival, Sarvesh Kumar of the BJP, got 2,52,176.