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regular-article-logo Monday, 20 May 2024

I am here to stay in politics, remain connected to people: Yusuf Pathan

Pathan, who retired from all forms of the sport in February 2021, feels with each passing day in Baharampur, he is gaining strength and confidence

PTI Calcutta Published 21.04.24, 12:40 PM
Yusuf Pathan during his election campaign ahead of the Lok Sabha election at Beldanga in Murshidabad district

Yusuf Pathan during his election campaign ahead of the Lok Sabha election at Beldanga in Murshidabad district PTI

Former Indian cricketer-turned-politician Yusuf Pathan, the TMC’s face against Congress heavyweight Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury in Baharampur, says he is here to stay in politics and remain connected to people of the city, who have already “accepted him as one of their own”.

Pathan, who retired from all forms of the sport in February 2021, feels with each passing day in Baharampur, he is gaining strength and confidence.

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“I am blessed to have come to a place where people are telling me ‘aap ko hum yahan se jaane nahi denge’ (we won’t let you leave us),” the right-hand batsman, known for his towering sixes, told PTI in an interview.

“People here have already accepted me as their son, brother or friend. I will stick to them no matter what the outcome of the polls is. I will be with them for a better future they deserve. These people are my strength and, ‘inshallah’, I will win. With the kind of positive mindset I am currently in, I am not even thinking of the possibility of a loss,” Pathan said.

He is contesting from the prestigious Baharampur Lok Sabha seat in Murshidabad district of West Bengal on a Trinamool Congress ticket, and has emerged as the prime challenger to Congress veteran and incumbent Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on his home turf.

“I have the utmost respect for Adhir Chowdhury, who is a senior leader,” he said.

“But when I listen to people, I hear discontentment over his absence from grassroots during the Covid years. People here allege that Chowdhury failed to bring in the required central grants to create infrastructure and employment opportunities. There’s not enough work for people and the MP of 25 years should answer people why he failed,” said the hard-hitting former cricketer, who moved from Gujarat to fight for a seat on the Lok Sabha floor from Bengal.

Pathan listed creating job opportunities to hold migrant workers back, building a world-class sports complex, infrastructure for local silk, thermocol and jute industry workers, and creating a support system for farmers as priority areas of work, should Baharampur voters choose him as their representative in Parliament.

“I have a lot of work to do here. I have figured that out in my short presence in the region, during my poll campaigns and interactions with people,” he said.

Joining the Lok Sabha poll fray, however, was possibly the last thing on Pathan’s mind barely a month and a half ago till Mamata Banerjee (CM and TMC supremo) and her nephew Abhishek approached him.

“It happened less than a week ahead of the day the party declared its candidate list on March 10,” Pathan said. “My first response was negative. I was swinging on the horns of a dilemma on whether or not to accept the offer. After all, I had never given a serious thought to politics before, nor was I a particular fan of the craft,” he stated.

Asked what eventually made him choose politics and the TMC, Pathan said with a hearty laugh: “Cricket toh khatam ho gaya, kuch toh karna tha (my cricketing days were over and I had to do something).” “On a serious note, I consulted my family, including my brother Irfan and wife Afreen. I also spoke to my seniors and friends. I soon realised that this could actually be a gift, an opportunity from the Almighty to serve the people and give back to society what I earned all these years in terms of love and respect,” he said.

Pathan, though, maintained he was familiar with Mamata Banerjee’s politics for over a decade, particularly since 2011 when he began playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL.

“I used to come and stay in Bengal for months and could see the civic infrastructure developments she brought to Kolkata. People kept telling me about her work in areas of women’s education and for the poor. I even met her in 2014 after KKR won the IPL that season,” he recounted.

“Hence, saying yes to her offer wasn’t much of an issue,” said Pathan.

Asked if his religious identity, that of a devout Muslim, gave him an edge over opponents in a Muslim-majority seat like Baharampur, Pathan firmly dissociated religion from politics.

“I have respect for every religion in this county, but people should not be treated as vote banks based on their religious identities.

“Elections should be fought for both majority and minority communities, not for one or the other. The priority should be the growth of economy and development of people so that we can build a future for our next generation,” he asserted.

Pathan, who was also an effective off spinner, continues to maintain a deep attachment to cricket despite bidding adieu to the game’s professional formats.

Pathan said his identity as a cricketer would continue to dominate his newfound love for politics.

“Both my identities are important, none of which I can hide. But, people will always consider me a cricketer first. They have seen me play and loved me for my performances in the middle. Now, they can expect me to serve them as one of their own,” he said.

As someone who sweated it out on the field under rigorous training schedules, Pathan feels the heat and dust of Baharampur have only added a leaf to his experience in life.

“To the dust, we shall all return. ‘Dhool se kya darna’ (why fear it),” he added.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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