A former city mayor who was jailed for electoral fraud is seeking a return to frontline politics after swapping Labour for the Conservatives.
Mohammed Choudhary said life had moved on and that he had become a better person after announcing his candidacy for Central ward in next May’s Peterborough City Council elections.
Mr Choudhary, who represented the city as mayor while serving as a Labour councillor, was jailed in 2008 for interfering with postal votes in Central ward during the council elections. Ex-Tory mayor Raja Akhtar was also jailed.
But Mr Choudhary said he had been asked to stand by the Conservatives and Central ward residents to attempt a return to the council after a 13 year gap.
Asked by the Peterborough Telegraph about his previous nine-month conviction for vote-rigging, for which he served 58 days in prison, Mr Choudhary said: “Time goes on, live moves on. I feel that I’m able to represent people in a better way. I have continued working for the community.
“It’s a thing of the past. People learn in life - achievements, mistakes.
“Life goes on and I always move to become a better and more mature person.
“I will put it to the people of Central ward - they have been the ones asking me to come back. I will let them decide who is the best person for the job.”
The 58-year-old from Cobden Avenue also heavily criticised the current Labour councillors in Central ward, with the party holding all three of the seats in the area.
He said: “The people really want me to come back. They think they have not been serviced properly by councillors in Central ward.
“I feel I can better represent the views of people in Central ward working with the Conservatives because they have been in control. They have more power - we are part of the decision making.”
Asked why he had switched from Labour to the Conservatives, Mr Choudhary pointed out that former long-serving councillor Charles Swift had left Labour to become an independent, adding: “He was a Labour man. He changed but he still wanted to represent the people and he did.
“For about 13 years there’s been not a single service provided in Central ward properly. All the achievements were prior to 2004. Since then nothing has basically been decided in the area.
“Look at the state of the footpaths, the old school buildings, the standards of the properties in the area.
“Labour councillors have not delivered what they have been elected for.
“I will become a voice of those people who have not been heard for a long time and I will always make sure a fair share of the funds are received by the ward.”
Mr Choudhary said he had previously helped set up Gladstone Park Community Centre and helped bring in Sure Start Gladstone to amalgamate health, education and family services to support parents with children aged under four.
During his time away from politics he has become chair of the Muslim Council of Peterborough, becoming “a voice within the Muslim community.”
Moreover, he said he was recently made an Ambassador of Peace in the United Kingdom with the Organisation for World Peace and has worked on safeguarding children and young people in Peterborough, a role which led to his new party asking him to stand for them in May.
“That was the time I was asked by the Conservatives to consider joining them. The Conservatives welcomed me with open arms,” he said.
“I’m excited. I’m looking forward to starting from where I left off. I have always spoken for the people.”
Conservative council leader Cllr John Holdich said he believes Mr Choudhary is a “Conservative at heart.”
He added: “I have to believe everybody deserves a second chance. In the case of Mr Choudhary he has an awful lot to offer. He works in the community, owns property in the community and has the community at heart. That’s what we want from a local councillor.”
On electoral fraud, he said: “In the area at the time, it was not correct but that’s the way it was done. I do not believe that goes on today.”