In Phase 4 of Lok Sabha polls, two World Cup-winning cricketers will test the political pitch of West Bengal

Kirti Azad and Yusuf Pathan cricketers are occasionally seen playing cricket with youngsters during their campaign. Both of them are contesting the polls of the Trinamool Congress ticket and are up in contest against political heavyweights

Updated - May 11, 2024 01:03 pm IST

Published - May 11, 2024 12:08 pm IST - Kolkata

Former cricketers and Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidates Kirti Azad (L), and Yusuf Pathan (R). File photo: PTI

Former cricketers and Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidates Kirti Azad (L), and Yusuf Pathan (R). File photo: PTI

As the Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal turns to its slog overs, two World Cup-winning cricketers will be testing the political pitch of the State.

The 65-year-old former Indian cricketer Kirti Azad, who was part of the 1983 World Cup winning squad is contesting from Bardhaman-Durgapur Lok Sabha Constituency while Yusuf Pathan, 41-year-old former member of the Indian cricket team that won the World Cup in 2011, is testing political waters from Baharampur seat in Murshidabad.

Also read | Political bigwigs battle it out in fourth phase of polls in Bengal

Both of them are contesting the polls on the Trinamool Congress ticket and are in contest against political heavyweights. Mr. Azad is contesting against former West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Dilip Ghosh from Bardhaman-Durgapur, while Mr. Pathan is contesting against five time Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who is defending the Baharampur seat.

Though their candidatures has been subject of much debate since the TMC decided to field candidates from outside the State — something which the party has accused the BJP of doing — the two cricketers have added much colour to the election campaign this season.

In the industrial township of Bardhaman-Durgapur marked by steel plants, Mr. Azad who has been both an MP and MLA from the BJP, before turning to Congress and now the TMC has been raising the issue of attempts of eviction of locals from Durgapur Steel Plant area.

“I will die but not let you be evicted from your land. If Dilip Ghosh has the courage he should come and say that people will not be evicted from the land,” Mr. Azad says during his campaign.

The former right-hand batsman and off spin bowler, during his speeches in Hindi, raises questions on the performance of the BJP MP from the constituency S.S. Ahluwalia. “Were missing posters not put for the BJP MP here? Was he there when the DSP people came for eviction?” he says.

While his challenger BJP’s Dilip Ghosh is seen wielding lathis and trident, Mr. Azad is often seen making jalebis in shops of the constituency.

At Baharampur, Yusuf Pathan who is making a political debut, speaks about the schemes of Mamata Banerjee government. Contesting from a Muslim-dominated community, Mr. Pathan praises the schemes of the TMC government particularly the honorariums to Imams and Muezzins.

“I remember my father [who served as Imam] had a salary of ₹3,000 and he took care of us. The initiative by Mamata Banerjee giving honorarium to Imams and Muezzins is very praiseworthy,” he says. During his campaign the former pinch hitter emphasises the importance of madrasas in shaping the life of the youth.

“ I have been sent here by Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek Banerjee. I hope that you all will be with me in Khela Hobe [Game will be played—a slogan of TMC],” Mr. Pathan says, often referring to sports during his campaign.

Both the cricketers are occasionally seen playing cricket with youngsters during their campaign. Connection with youths on the issue of sports has been a crucial part of their election campaign.

Murshidabad: Former cricketer and TMC candidate Yusuf Pathan during an election campaign ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, at Berhampore in Murshidabad district. File

Murshidabad: Former cricketer and TMC candidate Yusuf Pathan during an election campaign ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, at Berhampore in Murshidabad district. File | Photo Credit: PTO

Yusuf Pathan has promised a new sports complex at Baharampur where the youth can be trained while Kirti Azad says that he will address the issue of the sports complex by Sports Authority of India being occupied by alleged drug addicts.

The TMC candidate had lost Bardhaman-Durgapur seat to BJP’s S.S. Ahluwalia in 2019 by a narrow margin of less than 3,000 voters while Adhir Chowdhury has won the Baharampur seat in 2019 with a margin of about 80,000 voters,

Since the TMC has gained much ground in the State since 2019 when the BJP had registered its highest vote percentage of 40% both the former Indian cricketers are up for an electoral contest that may see a nail biting finish. Both Baharampur and Bardhaman-Durgapur will go to polls on May 13, in the fourth phase of polling.

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