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Kirti Azad: Mamata Banerjee gave me new political life, will fight for my constituency

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Kirti Azad could always measure his opponents on 22 yards, but on the political pitch he was required to show the nous to tame an “unknown enemy”, and this time it was former West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh.

Azad, a member of the 1983 World Cup winning team and a two-time former BJP MP from Bihar’s Darbhanga, stunned political heavyweight Ghosh by a handsome margin of 1.38 lakh votes from Burdwan-Durgapur constituency in this general election.

Azad said he was indebted to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for giving his political career a “new life”.

“I owe this to Didi (Mamata). She showed faith in me and gave me a new lease of life,” Azad, one of the most colourful characters in Delhi cricket, told PTI in an interview.

Though now treading a different field, Azad could not help but give a cricketing analogy to describe his win. “When you talk about cricket, you have a bowler coming in front of you and you know what kind of fields will a left-arm spinner or an off-spinner set.

“But in politics you don’t know how many bowlers are bowling and from where,” Azad elaborated the enormity of his fight.

So, what did he do to overcome the hurdle? “Simple basics of cricket. Follow the process. Keep your cool, talk sense, tell them what you have done and what you want to do. That’s it,” he added.

Ghosh is a fiery orator, who never pulls punches. So, what was Azad’s strategy to counter such a firebrand politician? “Dilip babu is a very polarizing character and a tough nut to crack. He wanted to engage with me in a one-on-one ugly spat.

“It’s best not to reply to the barbs that he was throwing at me or at Mamata Didi or at my party Trinamool Congress. I always maintained that I come from a “bhadra” (civilized) family,” he said.

Azad, an eloquent speaker in his own right, did want to engage but on different lines. “I wanted a one-on-one debate where we would discuss our respective vision for Burdwan-Durgapur constituency.

“He (Ghosh) should tell people that despite being a Bengali, why didn’t he fight for the rights of people of the state for money that is due for Bengal to the tune of Rs 1.64 lakh crore,” he added.

As a non-Bengali, how difficult was it then for him to fight from a Bengal township? Even the language was alien to him.

Amaar Bangla bolte kono osubidhe naai (I have no problems speaking in Bengali),” he spoke in Bangla trying to prove a point.

“My mother tongue is Mythili and there are similarities with Bangla. When I went on campaign, older people would come and say Kirti Da, we have seen you play Inter-Steel tournaments.

“We remember those days. Some have seen me play at Eden Gardens for India and Delhi. The younger generation have watched the World Cup highlights and the film ‘83’ where my character was well-etched,” he noted.

Kirti Azad greets supporters during his election campaign at Nababhat.

Kirti Azad greets supporters during his election campaign at Nababhat.
| Photo Credit:
PTI

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Kirti Azad greets supporters during his election campaign at Nababhat.
| Photo Credit:
PTI

But his gratitude for Mamata would often surface during the conversation. “I have known Didi for a long time from 1984, when my father (late Bhagwat Jha Azad) and Didi were cabinet colleagues in the Rajiv Gandhi government. She would always tell me ‘Kirti come to Bengal as there’s a lot of your people (Biharis) there’.

“She gave me love, guidance and told me I will contest from Burdwan-Durgapur. It was a David vs Goliath fight against Dilip babu, no doubt,” Azad said.

“I told my wife Poonam that if my intuition is correct, I will win by 1 lakh votes. Didi’s welfare scheme spoke for itself. Also, middle-class suffered due to price rise. Didi is a cult. She’s an emotion,” he added.

Azad alleged that there’s lot of work to be done as previous MP S.S. Ahluwalia has done precious little for the people in this region. Ahluwalia, in fact, fought from a different constituency and lost by a comprehensive margin to veteran Bollywood actor Shatrughan Sinha.

“In Durgapur, there are a lot of PSUs where workers are always being threatened with a golden handshake without a rehabilitation plan.

“There is a demand for an over-bridge at the railway crossing in Burdwan. Previous MP Ahluwalia never came here and listened to the plight of people.” Azad is a part of the Whatsapp group ‘83’ where all the 13 living members from that World Cup win are members and he has been flooded with congratulatory messages.

“Sunny bhai (Gavaskar) and Ravi (Shastri) saw a day late in the US. Kaps (Kapil Dev) is a brother with whom I share family-like ties. All three congratulated me.”



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