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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 19 June 2024

All of India’s my 'karmabhoomi', I am here to work for the people: Yusuf Pathan

Over 1,800km from his Vadodara home, Pathan — who had a stellar IPL career with multiple franchises, including the Kolkata Knight Riders — left no stone unturned to honour the faith reposed in him by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, since she sprang his surprise candidature from her Brigade rally on March 10

Alamgir Hossain, Meghdeep Bhattacharyya Behrampore Published 26.05.24, 07:18 AM
Yusuf Pathan, batting for Trinamool Congress in this Lok Sabha election, on the campaign trail in the lead-up to the Behrampore elections earlier this month.

Yusuf Pathan, batting for Trinamool Congress in this Lok Sabha election, on the campaign trail in the lead-up to the Behrampore elections earlier this month. PTI

Yusuf Khan Pathan, a flamboyant all-rounder in India squads that won the 2007 World Twenty20 and the 2011 ODI World Cup, toiled for nearly two months in the heat and dust on a very different pitch — of electoral politics, from Behrampore in Murshidabad.

Over 1,800km from his Vadodara home, Pathan — who had a stellar IPL career with multiple franchises, including the Kolkata Knight Riders — left no stone unturned to honour the faith reposed in him by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, since she sprang his surprise candidature from her Brigade rally on March 10.

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Thereafter, till the poll day on May 13, the swashbuckling elder brother of Irfan Pathan never failed to leave his Behrampore accommodation by 9am, and returned no sooner than 10pm, daily, giving the campaign his all.

Should he win — that too against the mighty Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress, undefeated in the seat since 1999 — Pathan promises to have a second home in Behrampore, to adequately spend time with the people he would represent in Parliament.

The Telegraph spoke to the 41-year-old ahead of the fourth phase of polling.

Excerpts:

You were a passionate, flamboyant cricketer. You were mentored by the great Shane Warne and cherished by Shah Rukh Khan. How did this journey from the field of cricket to the arena of politics happen?

I will always remain a passionate cricketer.

I was leaving for a Sri Lanka tournament (of retired cricketers), when a person sent by Abhishek Banerjee and Mamata Banerjee came looking for me in Mumbai… Never spoke to anybody from Trinamool till then. That guy, through my close friend, contacted me. Their proposals were made… we spoke at length.

I went home. Irfanbhai and others were there. We di­scussed within the family… took some time, did some research, and weighed the pros and cons. We arrived at the collective decision that I won’t do it. Yaar, nahi karna hay. Yeh cheez mein nahi girna hay (I am not going to do it. I’m not going to get involved in this).

Later, suddenly, I had an epiphany. We were seated together for a meal, and I said ‘Nahi yaar, yeh kartey hain (No, let’s do this)!’ In politics, raise my voice for the people in Parliament. I could work for the masses, try and make their lives a little easier…. Then I decided, alright.

It has been widely speculated that Dada (former India skipper Sourav Ganguly) contacted you for this?

No no! It was that fellow they sent…. No cricketer… nor a Bollywood megastar (referring to Shah Rukh) reached out for this.

You have been labelled a “bohiragawto (outsider)” by the Opposition here, as Mamata repeatedly says Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, from your home state, are bohiragawto.

Akhir mulq toh merai hay (After all, it is my nation). Gujarat or Bengal… it’s all India, and I am a proud Indian. Gujarat is my janmbhoomi (land of birth), all of India is my karmbhoomi (land of work).

The people have treated me like family. On the road, they came with cold water to candy, even some with their Lakshmir Bhandar savings. Ever since I came here, not once did I feel like a bahri (outsider). They made me their ghar ka bachcha (child of their home)… a son, a brother, a friend.

But being in politics aga­inst the BJP here is much easier here than in Gujarat.

I am here to work for the people…. I am not here to fight against anybody. I don’t have faith in that sort of thing.

Behrampore is a minority-dominated seat. Your name is Yusuf Pathan. Did Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee choose you because you are a pious Muslim?

No, nobody should think this way. The politics of caste-community, identities… the blame game, it simply should not take place…. We are Indian, above all else.

Taking a particular ca­ste-community for a vote bank, treating them that way, I don’t support it at all.

What was Didi’s mantra to you?

That I should work for the people here, and they want change. “I will give you full support, you keep working for them,” she said.

She treats me like family, calls me her brother. I take pride in that. She gave me a tremendous opportunity, for which I am truly grateful.

Did Shah Rukh say anything yet?

Shah Rukh bhai does love me a great deal, and I love him too.

I have not spoken to him about this yet. But whenever we did talk, he used to tell me to relentlessly chase my dreams, and keep giving my work my all.

Any word from Dada?

No, he has been very busy.

Who was that one player in the opposition that you feared or respected the most, in your playing career?

Every bowler, every batsman ought to be respected.

I played with the likes of Warne, (Brett) Lee, (Dale) Steyn, (Muthiah) Muralidaran… all-time greats. My only aim was to play, help my team win. I never paid heed to the names. Batsmen? Well, Sachin (Tendulkar)… I could never take his wicket. But I did take Dada’s (Ganguly’s), once… among the greats.

Here you have come to play against the undefeated Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, India’s de facto Shadow Pr­ime Minister in the 17th Lok Sabha...

I will always have great respect for him. He is a senior leader. But the people here want change. They have conveyed that to me and given me great support.

Will you hit Adhir for a six, or will you have him clean bowled?

I have come to bat for Behrampore, and the people here have set a marvellous pitch
for me.

So hit him out of the park?

Ji bhai bilkul! (Yes, absolutely!) That is my role… of a hard-hitting batsman who needs to score quickly for his team. Irrespective of the opposition.

Bengal votes in all seven phases

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