If things go as planned by the Telangana unit of the Congress, it could well be former cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin versus AIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi for the Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat. The former India captain is the top pick of the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) for the constituency. It has shortlisted candidates for all the 17 Lok Sabha segments in Telangana, party sources said.
The 56-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, who hails from the city, was appointed as one of the working presidents of the TPCC before the December 7, 2018 assembly elections in the state.
There were earlier reports that he was keen to contest from Secunderabad, now held by senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, in the Lok Sabha election due by May.
But it now looks unlikely that he would get the party nod to fight from there. However, it's not immediately clear if Azharuddin is willing to throw his hat in the ring in Hyderabad constituency, an AIMIM stronghold, represented by Owaisi for three terms now.
"If the party high-command asks him to contest from Hyderabad, he will do so", a senior TPCC leader told PTI when asked if Azharuddin was indeed in the race.
The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) has already made it clear that it would support Owaisi in Hyderabad and expects his backing for its candidates in the remaining 16 segments. In the 2009 Lok Sabha poll, Azharuddin won from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh but in 2014, lost from Tonk-Madhopur in Rajasthan.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the ruling TRS won 11 seats, the Congress two, and the BJP, AIMIM, TDP and YSRCP one each in Telangana. In the assembly elections held nearly three months ago, the Congress had forged an electoral alliance -- "Prajakutami" (People's Front) -- with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS). But the grouping came a cropper at the hustings.
The Congress won a mere 19 seats and the TDP could get only two while the CPI and TJS drew a blank. The TRS was swept back to power, securing 88 seats in the 119-member House.
The alliance landscape may look different for the coming Lok Sabha elections in Telangana.
The Congress has decided to contest all the 17 seats and has reached out to the CPI, TJS and TDP requesting them to extend support to its candidates. But there are indications that CPI and CPI-M may join hands and field their candidates. A senior TJS leader said: "A general feeling in the party is that we (TJS) should contest at least two or three seats. If as a party if we don't contest, we can't survive".
Sources said the TDP was unlikely to field candidates for the Lok Sabha election in Telangana. A top Congress leader said his party was looking forward for "indirect support" from the TDP, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.