Azharuddin meets Cong top brass in Hyd today, set to join party

By Mohammed Siddique,,

Hyderabad: Now it is more or less confirmed that Mohammed Azharuddin, the former Indian cricket captain from Hyderabad will be joining the ruling Congress party. Amid the intense speculations over the last three days, the cricketer today met the big three of the Congress party in the state, the Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, the state Congress president D Srinivas and the AICC general secretary in-charge of state affairs Veerappa Moily.

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Clad in a green T-shirt, the lanky cricketer reached the Lakeview Guest House this afternoon and met the three senior leaders. He, however, avoided talking to the media. But the informed sources said that the issue of Azharuddin joining Congress party, taking part in the campaign and possibly contesting Lok Sabha elections figured in the talks.

The sources said that this was the second such meeting after Azharuddin met Congress President Sonia Gandhi recently in New Delhi. There were speculations that Azhar might be fielded from Secunderabad Lok Sabha constituency. Party leaders said that fielding Azharuddin from Muslim dominated Hyderabad constituency was not under consideration because it was a stronghold of the MIM, a strong ally of the Congress party.

Moreover, the MIM President and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi is among the close friends of Azhar and it is believed that Azhar is joining Congress with the good wishes of his friends.

Secunderabad, a cosmopolitan constituency on the other hand was being seen as suitable for Azharuddin. Till 2004 it was in the hands of the BJP but a low profile Congress candidate Anjan Yadav wrested it in last elections. Congress is not too confident about repeating him this time.

Today’s meeting of Azhar came as a surprise because after the media reports on Tuesday about the possibility of his joining Congress, Azhar had denied the same. But the Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy had expressed confidence that Azhar will come into Congress as he was a friend of state government whip Kiran Kumar Reddy.

Veerappal Moily, the AICC general secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh affair today confirmed that former Indian cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin had expressed his desire to join the Congress party and campaign for the party in the coming elections.

He was talking to the media after Azharuddin visited the Lakeview Guest House in Hyderabad on Thursday and met him, the Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and the state Congress president D Srinivas.

Moily however did not answer directly to a question whether Azharuddin will contest the Lok Sabha election on party’s ticket. Moily also confirmed that earlier Azhar had called on the Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi.

However Azharuddin refused to talk to the media waiting outside the guest house. Another senior Congress leader said that the issue of contesting elections will come up only after he formally joins the party soon.

The formal announcement of his entry in to the Congress was likely to be made at the Congress headquarters in New Delhi during the course of next few days, sources said.

But whether Azhar will be able to pull the voters including the minorities remains a question because ever since his fall from grace following the allegations on match fixing, Azhar has largely remained away from Hyderabad, confining himself to Mumbai with his second wife Sangeeta Bijlani. He hasn’t yet been proved guilty in match fixing charges.