Union Labour and Employment Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge on Monday said infighting in 2008 Assembly elections plagued the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) so much that many candidates, including 34 former Ministers, lost the battle to the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Mr. Kharge, who headed the KPCC then, poured out his pent up feelings over the defeat of the party, which managed to win just 81 seats. He said it could have come to power had it won another 33 seats. But, our own party leaders worked against the official candidates and put the Congress in the Opposition benches, he said. It was not the BJP, which defeated the Congress, but our own people, he added.

Mr. Kharge was addressing party workers after inaugurating the birth anniversary of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the former Chief Minister D. Devaraj Urs organised by the Backward Classes Department of the KPCC here.

Recalling the contribution of the two leaders for the uplift of Dalits, backward classes and minorities by their progressive programmes, such as Land Reforms benefitting poor landless workers, the Panchayat Raj, and information technology and bio-technology. Mr. Kharge also said the Urs government gave land to 3.5 lakh families.

He said Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi sacrificed their lives for the country, but today there are leaders who take the lives of others. He said that Urs used to educate Congressmen of the need to implement land reforms and went so far as to ask Opposition leaders in private to support his progressive measures. The BJP, he said, was dividing people on caste lines and bribing them. “Show your unity in the next elections and let us see the results,” he added.

Congress leaders Siddaramaiah, G. Parameshwara, Ambareesh and Mr. Kharge presented the former Minister Kagodu Thimmappa, the former Karnataka Backward Classes Commission chairman Ravivarma Kumar and the former member of the commission J. Srinivasan with the D. Devaraj Urs Memorial Award instituted by the KPCC. KPCC senior vice-president A. Krishnappa and AICC secretary Vinay Kumar Sorake spoke.