Kaif on a sticky wicket in Phulpur

By all accounts, cricketer-turned-Congress candidate Mohammad Kaif is not batting well here.

Even since he was fielded by Congress from a seat first nursed by Jawaharlal Nehru, Kaif has had to face the lack of support from old party hands.

His hurriedly put together squad also lacks experience.

In short, according to those monitoring the Phulpur constituency, some 220 km from Lucknow, Kaif’s team is in disarray.

“Support can only take you so far. Once you cross the line, you have to face the bowler alone,” 33-year-old Kaif said, obliquely hinting that not all was well with his campaign.
The Phulpur seat covers five assembly constituencies, two of them falling in Allahabad city, and is home to 17.36 lakh voters.

In 2009, the seat went to Kapil Muni Karwariya of Bahujan Samaj Party. Congress won it last in 1984 and has since then not even been a runner-up and in the last elections, it finished third.

The party’s then candidate Dharam Raj Singh Patel is now with Samajwadi Party and is again in the fray.

Another formidable opponent is Keshav Prasad Maurya of BJP who is buoyed by the ‘Modi wave’ and by the party’s alliance with the Apna Dal, which has influence over two lakh

Patel votes

Kaif’s biggest drawback are his inadequacies in his maiden electoral battle.

Unlike most candidates, he has avoided addressing public meetings, relying more on door-to-door canvassing.

Santosh Gupta, 30-year-old owner of an advertising agency who heard one of Kaif’s rare speeches, dubbed it as “very disappointing” because he had “nothing important to say”.
“This constituency has a legacy. How can someone like Kaif be the right choice? A cricketing hero cannot be a hero everywhere,” Gupta said.

Kaif, who is from Allahabad, studied till class 12 and his cricketing talent hit the spotlight when he led the under-19 team to a World Cup victory in 2000.

His most memorable turn happened in the 2002 Natwest Series in England, after which he was in and out of the Indian cricket team. He has not played for the country since 2006.

Kamal Kishor, a photographer who lives close to Kaif’s home in Civil Lines, said Kaif’s supporters, mainly some sportspersons, have been getting into scuffles with the opposition.

“No one really seems to know what is happening with Kaif’s campaign,” he said.

Congress sources said that the leading cricketers Kaif said would bat for him have not visited the constituency. Even his fans are disappointed.

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