Former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin means business in his new innings
He still speaks in monosyllables. And ends his simple sentences with a trademark drawl. He still wears his T-shirt with the collar up. A pair of blue jeans and sports shoes complete his attire — just as it had been when he posed for the cover of a weekly sports magazine edited by Sunil Gavaskar some 20 years ago. Then he sat atop a Honda Accord. Now he plonks himself on the sofa at his Defence Colony residence in the Capital. Politics has clearly failed to change Mohammed Azharuddin, he of 99 Test matches for India, he who has just won the 100th test of his career, and the first in politics.
Making his debut with a resounding victory in Moradabad on a Congress ticket — the party had not won the seat for more than a couple of decades — Azhar is quietly happy with his accomplishment. And confident he won’t let anybody down with his performance. If on the cricket field his bat spoke eloquently, in politics his development work shall stand him in good stead.
Azhar says, “Expectations from me have always been high. When I played cricket, it was the same. I am proud people expect me to deliver. I understand I will have to spend more time in Moradabad and Delhi. I intend to stay in Moradabad and spend at least five-six days, maybe even more every month, to see that ground level development work takes place. The quality of life has to improve. Otherwise I will betray the trust of the people who have elected me. When I played for India only five people selected me. Here lakhs have voted.”
Quite cool about his new role as an MP, Azhar says he came into politics by the hand of destiny. “Cricket was my forte. I never aspired to be a politician. I felt very happy at wearing the India cap. I would have been happy to merely campaign for the Congress in the elections. But when I was asked by the party high command, I could not say no. There were calls from so many places that I should contest from there. I did not choose Moradabad. The people did. And I felt very satisfied with my victory in Moradabad,” he says, then lets the emerging politician in him come to the fore, “Actually it is not so much my victory as that of the people, my party and my leader. I did not come into politics because I needed name or fame. Rather I did not have to introduce myself when I campaigned as people knew me. I realised I needed a grand platform to work. Being an MP is a great responsibility.”
Of course, this “great responsibility” means he will finally have to change his attire. “I cannot go to Parliament wearing T-shirt and jeans”, he confesses, even as an aide recalls that every time Azhar went to campaign in Moradabad there were calls from youngsters for his collar to be raised! He has his priorities worked out. Sports can wait. “I was shocked to see Moradabad. It is a sorry state of affairs in U.P. There is grinding poverty. Power is a major issue. Without power nothing can work, no industry can survive. There is no university for girls; the education system is in shambles. The health system needs urgent attention. Sanitation is poor. The brassware industry needs help. There is unemployment. I know people have won on emotive issues in the past, but those days are over. It is time to focus on development.”
He agrees that the road ahead may not be easy. “I am prepared to raise my voice for social concerns, local issues. That is my responsibility.”ZIA US SALAM