The first list of Lok Sabha candidates announced by Congress on Saturday has many surprises. While the party is yet to decide on the fate of former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin, who won the last election from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, it has fielded another cricketer, Mohammad Kaif, from Phulpur, a constituency in UP once represented by Jawaharlal Nehru. The seat currently belongs to BSP’s Kapil Muni.
Speculation was rife that the Congress was considering the name of actress-turned-politician Nagma from Phulpur. However, 10 members of the district Congress committee wrote to Rahul Gandhi, seeking a local candidate. Party leader Haseeb Ahme and Shrish Chandra Dubey had sent protest letters in blood, saying: ‘Abhineta nahin, neta chahiye (we don’t want an actor, we want a leader).’
The constituency in Allahabad district from where Kaif will contest has a considerable Muslim and Dalit population. The Congress is banking on Kaif to turn the party’s fortunes by consolidating Muslim votes and garnering votes from other castes as well. After 1977, the seat was won by the Congress only once in 1984. The Janata Party won it twice, Janata Dal also twice in 1989 and 1991, Samajwadi Party four times. In the 2009 general election, the BSP wrested it from the SP.
Other surprises in the list are the names of Bhojpuri star Ravi Kishen, Oriya actors Aparajita Mohanty and Bijay Mohanty.