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‘Rehabilitated’ Kirti Azad uses cricket prowess to charm voters in Dhanbad
Jharkhand

‘Rehabilitated’ Kirti Azad uses cricket prowess to charm voters in Dhanbad

Agency News

Dhanbad (Jharkhand), Apr 27 : Politics is so much a dynamic phenomenon that often it has the capacity to harm the protagonists. Did he commit a political hara-kiri by his outburst against the party leadership and especially Arun Jaitley that the former BJP lawmaker from Darbhanga in Bihar is today looking for a fresh innings from Dhanbad in Jharkhand?

The detractors have already labelled former World Cup team star Kirti Azad an ‘outsider’ in Dhanbad. Azad was part of Kapil Dev’s illustrious team of 1983 that won Prudential World Cup Cricket. But politics is no cricket, as they put it. In the first place, his gamble to jump into the Congress camp did not help Kirti Azad get ticket from Darbhanga – a constituency he has represented as a saffron party lawmaker thrice - 1999, 2009 and 2014.

Congress had to part away with the seat due to ‘seat adjustments’ with RJD and he has been instead ‘moved out of Bihar pitch’ and fielded from Dhanbad – which has returned BJP’s sitting MP twice - Pashupati Nath Singh. Abdul Bari Sidiqqui of RJD would now take on BJP nominee Gopalji Thakur in Darbhanga. But the Congress poll managers are hopeful.

They allege BJP MP P N Singh could not live up to the expectation of the people of Dhanbad and therefore the popular mining hub has lost the opportunity of getting an AIIMS and an airport. Statistics also, they say, would favour Kirti Azad, whose father Bhagwat Jha Azad was a legendary politician of united Bihar and also a former Chief Minister. But how much all these help his son electorally, remain to be tested on ground.

In 2014, the BJP nominee had polled 47 per cent of votes and the Congress share was 21.9 per cent. Local Congress leaders say the new political arithmetic in the state and understanding between Marxist coordination Committee (MCC), Congress and other smaller parties will take Congress vote share to over 43 and Kirti Azad’s celebrity status and a performing lawmaker in the past will sail him through.

In 2014, the BJP nominee had polled 47 per cent of votes and the Congress share was 21.9 per cent. Local Congress leaders say the new political arithmetic in the state and understanding between Marxist coordination Committee (MCC), Congress and other smaller parties will take Congress vote share to over 43 and Kirti Azad’s celebrity status and a performing lawmaker in the past will sail him through. “Kirti Azad is a winning candidate, we believe it is only a matter of formality that he will return successfully,” local Congress worker Jeeten Lal said. But Mr Azad’s major problem has been the newly given ‘outsider’ tag in Dhanbad – a description both the Congress workers and the former cricket star himself takes exception. 'I am not an outsider,' he has said many times and also recalled his past visit to Dhanbad and Bokaro when he used to work for Bokaro Steel Limited.

Understanding the emotive issue of being called an 'outsider', Kirti Azad has tried to use the cricket magic and recently said : "I am one of the two fortunate sons of Jharkhand to have brought the World Cup'.  His reference is 1983 win at Lords against West Indies under Kapil Dev while M S Dhoni did it again in 2011. Congress workers also say Azad has been a more pragmatic politician than most pragmatic ones; and also a fighter. 'Look at his fighting spirit. After he had to shift from Darbhanga, he had not complained and has taken the fight in Dhanbad as a challenge. Many recall his fantastic one day encounter with Pakistan during one of the first day-and-night matches in Delhi in 1980s. He knows how to fight and win,' said one cricket fan Karim Ansari, 48 recalling a match where in again the Indian squad was led by Kapil Dev.

But the BJP camp remains confident and also hopes that 'performance' of Chief Minster Raghubar Das-led regime in the state and the Modi government in the Centre – especially in terms of schemes like Ujjwala and Ayushman and strong actions against terror will help the party. The saffron party poll strategists also make light of opposition’s attempt to blow up issues like the state government’s attempt to tweak Section 21 of the Chotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act and Section 13 of the Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act.

These laws would essentially enable use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes and thus Congress and MCC leaders say this will backfire on the BJP. The BJP has also made it a point to highlight clearly that the personal charisma of Prime Minister Modi is an asset electorally and that opportunity should be made use of. However, observers and common citizens say people have their own issues and would thus take the final call after weighing all pros and cons. What is apparently also worrisome for the Congress and Kirti Azad camp is that a large number lower level office bearers and workers from the Congress camp and also from RJD have embraced the saffron outfit in Dhanbad in last two years.

But the Congress workers say - there is certainly some nervousness in the BJP Chief Minister Raghubar Das camp and therefore, he has 'not opted' for simultaneous assembly elections with the Lok Sabha polls although the Chief Minister himself has been one of the principal supporters of Prime Minister Modi’s idea of simultaneous elections. The polling to state legislature in Jharkhand is due by November-December later this year. Voting in Dhanbad will be held on May 12.  (UNI )