Mumbai, May 12: Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who threw a shoe at then US President George W. Bush in 2008 and is now running for the highest office in his country, plans to improve relations with India if voted to power.
Al-Zaidi rose to fame following his shoe-throwing act at the then visiting President, who was in Baghdad in 2008 to tout the successes of the US invasion.
The Iraqi journalist, who then shouted: "This is a farewell kiss from Iraqi people, you ***", now in a conversation coordinated by a translator, said he wanted to be a politician because he views "politics as a job or an office that serves people".
Al-Zaidi, who was in New Delhi two years ago and visited the Rajghat, said: "I don't have so much information on Indian politics. But I know Prime Minister Narendra Modi has mass support. He is a popular leader and I hope he will provide Indians with prosperity and success."
On a mission to right the wrongs meted out to Iraq, Al-Zaidi, who is contesting in the parliamentary polls held on Saturday, said: "Justice, equality, hard work and honesty -- these are what I want to see in my country.
"First I have to fight corruption and also need to expose the politicians of our country," he said, adding that he wanted to question the current leaders about their financial dealings and unaccounted wealth.
"I will also get back the stolen money taken out of our country back to Iraq." Al-Zaidi, 39, reflecting on the shoe-throwing incident as a "matter in the past", said: "I certainly did not use it for mileage in my current political campaign."
Speaking about India and Iraq, he said: "The two nations share a lot in common including heritage and religion. There is a large population of Muslims in both the countries and they share a common history of fighting against imperialism."
Al-Zaidi said there were many people in Iraq named after Mahatma Gandhi. "A journalist is the voice of the people. He is the one who understands the people more than other professionals. I will be there, wherever there is a chance to represent my countrymen, be it politics or journalism," he said. He also urged Indians to watch the play "The Last Salute" directed by Mahesh Bhatt. Actor Imran Zahid plays Al-Zaidi in it.