The former India skipper is eyeing the adjacent Secunderabad constituency.

 

Former Indian cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin is not certain of contesting from Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency in Telangana as he is not sure of taking on formidable incumbent MP Asaduddin Owaisi, chief of the Majlis Ittehadul Muslmeen (AIMIM). The Congress high command is keen on fielding Azharuddin from Hyderabad to teach a lesson to Asaduddin for leaving the UPA.

Azharuddin wants to try his luck from adjacent Secunderabad seat, but he faces stiff resistance from Congress leaders from Hyderabad city.

Former Secunderabad MP and Greater Hyderabad Congress Committee (GHCC) president Anjan Kumar Yadav held a meeting of the city party workers on Sunday and warned the cricketer turned politician to stay away from Secunderabad.

The issue triggered a factional row in the party and landed in the court of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. AICC general secretary Ramachandra Kuntia, who looks after Telangana affairs, told both Azhar and Yadav to leave the final decision on Rahul Gandhi who is expected to visit here sometime in August.

Azharuddin was first elected to the Lok Sabha on a Congress ticket from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh in 2009, but he lost from Tonk-Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan in 2014.

After the defeat, he was away from party affairs for a couple of years. But the Congress high command, which is particular about fielding a strong candidate from Hyderabad seat in 2019, brought back Azharuddin into an active role last year.

Initially, Azharuddin appeared confident of fighting elections from Hyderabad constituency, which is a predominantly Muslim populated area and a bastion of the AIMIM. Azharuddin  was born and brought up in the city and has vast contacts in the Old City of Hyderabad that constitutes the Lok Sabha seat. He has toured the area in the last one year.

As per an aide of the former skipper, after touring the constituency’s seven Assembly segments, which are held by AIMIM MLAs, Azharuddin noticed that the presence of the Congress cadre was very thin. This led Azhar to hold a media conference and announce his preference for Secunderabad seat.

Anjan Kumar Yadav, who represented Secunderabad Lok Sabha seat twice in 2004 and 2009, is now preparing to contest from here again in 2019. He has seriously objected to Azharuddin’s announcement and made it clear that the Congress workers would not allow that. “I have prepared the ground to contest from here for the last few years, how can he (Azhar) suddenly enter here?” asked Anjan Kumar Yadav.

Talking to The Sunday Guardian, Yadav said that as the president of GHCC he would convey the mood of the party workers against Azharuddin contesting from Secunderabad. If Hyderabad is a Muslim dominated seat, Secunderabad is populated by Hindus and Christians and there is no chance of a Muslim winning from here, said Yadav.

Currently, Secunderabad is held by BJP’s Bandaru Dattatreya who lost his Union minister post in the recent Cabinet reshuffle. Dattatreya is interested in contesting from here again, but the party leadership wants to field a fresh face. BJP’s legislature party leader G. Kishan Reddy is planning to go to the Lok Sabha from Secunderabad.

Anjan Kumar Yadav argues that if the high command gives a ticket to Azaharuddin from Secunderabad, the party would lose both Hyderabad and Secunderabad, two precious seats from Telangana. “Otherwise, we can at least win Secunderabad,” said Yadav. According to Yadav, there is a possibility of Azharuddin winning Hyderabad if enough groundwork is done from now on.

However, the former Indian cricket captain is not sure of that. Asaduddin Owaisi, who has been winning Hyderabad since 2004, has expanded his party base in all the seven segments—Malkpet, Karwan, Ghoshamahal, Charminar, Chandrayangutta, Yakutpura and Bahadurpura—thanks to the patronage from the TRS government since 2014.

Asaduddin’s father, the late Salahuddin Owasi too won the seat continuously six times from 1984 and this is one seat that AIMIM claims in every election. Though Azharuddin is held in high esteem by the Muslims who constitute 45% of the voters, they generally vote for AIMIM.

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