Passing through the dusty lanes into the interiors of Jais (Amethi), a cavalcade of 7 SUVs heads towards a ‘mohalla’ which reverberates with slogans of ‘Congress Party zindabad, Azharuddin zindabad.’ Mohammad Azharuddin, one of the most successful captains of the Indian cricket team, waved and smiled as he went across the narrow lanes of Amethi to campaign for Congress leaders who are contesting the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.
Like any other small town of our country, a huge mob turns out to greet the celebrity. More than 1000 people gathered to greet him.
A group of boys, most of them in their teens, ran along with the cavalcade of Azharuddin, carrying cricket bats along with them, hoping that the cricket legend would give them an autograph.
Some kids seem more excited to see the caravan of posh SUVs arriving in their locality, than the candidate sitting inside the vehicle.
Azhar, who was known for his aggression on the field, however, appears extremely calm and poised while meeting the voters. With a smile and folded hands, he urges the people to vote for Congress.
While heading towards Tiloi from Jais, Azhar stops his cavalcade and on request, plays a few shots, leaving the audience chanting ‘Azhar, Azhar, Azhar…’
After following him for nearly 50 kilometers, InUth caught up with the cricketer-turned-politician at a house near Tiloi, where he halted for lunch.
Irked over communal politics being played by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the former Indian skipper lashes out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his recent ‘kabristan and bijli’ remark.
Speaking to us, Azhar expressed his displeasure over Modi’s recent statement and said, “PM Modi ki soch bahut choti hai aur choti soch ke log hi iss tarike ki gandi baat kar sakte hain” (PM Modi is very narrow minded and people with such mindset talk like this).
Recently, while addressing a rally in Fatehpur, PM Modi had said, “Gaon me kabristan banta hai to shamshaan bhi bananaa chahiye. Ramzan me bijli aati hai to Diwali me bhi aani chahiye. Agar Holi mein bijli milti hai, to Eid par bhi bijli milni chahiye. Bhedbhav nahi hona chahiye.” (If a graveyard is made in a village, it should also have a cremation ground; if a village gets electricity during Ramzan, it should also get the same during Diwali. If there is electricity during Holi, there should be electricity during Eid too. There should be no discrimination.)
Meanwhile, speaking about the Congress-SP alliance, Azhar said that the decision taken by both the parties to contest the elections is a well-thought move and that they will do very well in the elections.
“After visiting many constituencies, I have a very strong feeling that the alliance is going to form the government in the state,” said the 54-year-old.
Praising Akhilesh Yadav, the former Congress MP said he had done a lot of good work in the state and now with Rahul Gandhi’s support, the SP would be able to do much more for the people of UP.
With all praises for women, Azhar said that the women in the state have outnumbered men when it comes to attending public meetings or rallies.
He said, “Women are extremely aware these days. I am very happy to see their active participation, they do all the household work and then attend political rallies and public meetings, which is a very positive sign for a progressive society.”
“Women are not just for cooking and doing your daily chores. They should be a deciding factor in everything,” he added.
Notably, Azharuddin became the captain of the Indian Cricket team succeeding Krishnamachari Srikkanth in 1989. He led the Indian team in 47 Test matches and 174 One Day Internationals. He led the team to victory in 90 ODIs, the highest until surpassed by MS Dhoni on 2 September 2014.