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An address crisis for Azhar

New Delhi, Aug. 2: Mohammad Azharuddin has a problem: he is yet to find a permanent address in Moradabad, his Lok Sabha constituency, and has an Assembly seat to deliver.

“Unless he finds a house, Moradabadis cannot take him seriously,” said Pervez Khan, a local journalist who had campaigned for the ex-cricketer during the Lok Sabha polls.

“One of his pre-poll commitments was to find a house as soon as possible. It is three months since the elections and people don’t know how to access him. They can’t keep running to Delhi.”

Azhar, still to be allotted an official residence in Delhi, lives in Defence Colony. In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, he was put up in Moradabad by a well-wisher and brassware manufacturer in his guesthouse. The Congress MP has since moved to the Raj Mahal hotel but his visits have become less frequent.

Azhar was not available for comment but a relative confirmed he had not yet been able to select a house because “nobody wants to rent a place to a politician”. The former India captain, the relative said, was searching for land to build a house.

“But this is a long-term plan. People are becoming impatient,” Khan said.

Azhar has been advised by Digvijay Singh, the general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, and Rita Bahuguna Joshi, the state Congress president, to stay put in Moradabad after the Parliament session ends next week.The Congress has put the MP in charge of the Moradabad (West) Assembly seat, one of the four in Uttar Pradesh where by-elections will be held on August 18.

A leader from the party’s minority cell claimed Azhar had promised to wrest the seat from the BJP, whose MLA Rajeev Channa had resigned after joining the BSP.

The minority cell leader didn’t share Azhar’s optimism. “It looks as though he is a one-election wonder. We are told he can still rustle up the crowds. They voted their hearts out for him but it is a different story when he solicits votes for another candidate. Then people will look at other factors such as the candidate, caste and community equations, who is ruling the state and can, therefore, get work done, etc,” he said.

Azhar’s brother-in-law Khalique-ur Rehman, a Congress general secretary in Andhra Pradesh, was around during the Lok Sabha elections to size up the political mood and work out a strategy.

Sources said although Rehman was expected to be by Azhar’s side until he was “suitably moulded and experienced”, he has stopped coming to Moradabad. So he is dependent on the local Congress, which hadn’t seemed terribly motivated to work for him last May.

The Congress has fielded Choudhury Saulat Ali, whose wife is the sister of Samajwadi Party nominee Choudhury Riasat Hussain.

Both candidates, who are former MLAs, are well networked within their own caste and the Muslim community at large.

Congress sources said the Muslims, who make up the bulk of the voters in Moradabad, would have to tactically vote one way as they had done for Azhar for the party to win. If their vote splits, the BJP, which has put up a Thakur, Bhupinder Singh, may end up keeping the seat.

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