This story is part of
Up close and personal

Leaders should raise issues at the right fora: Mallikarjun Kharge on Rajasthan crisis

On Rajasthan indiscipline, the Congress chief says that no individual is above the institution of the party.

April 21, 2023 09:04 pm | Updated April 22, 2023 11:35 pm IST - BENGALURU

Congress president Mallikarjuna Kharge interacting with The Hindu in Benagluru on April 21, 2023..

Congress president Mallikarjuna Kharge interacting with The Hindu in Benagluru on April 21, 2023.. | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain

The party is above any individual and no one should be in a hurry in the Congress, party president Mallikarjun Kharge said, in his first comments on the face-off between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy, Sachin Pilot.

In an exclusive interview with The Hindu ahead of the Karnataka Assembly election, Mr. Kharge also expressed confidence that the Congress party would be able to form a government in the State. “This election will definitely change the entire country’s political scenario and change the people’s mood,” he said.

“Karnataka election will change the country’s political scenario” | Mallikarjun Kharge speaks to The Hindu

‘Maintain discipline’

Asked about the Rajasthan crisis, Mr. Kharge said that party leaders were working to bring Mr. Pilot and Mr. Gehlot together. But though he did not explicitly name Mr. Pilot, the Congress chief sent a not-so-subtle message when he said that leaders should maintain discipline and raise issues at the right fora.

“Party won’t depend on one individual or two individuals. The Party is the institution and in the institution, some individuals come and go. And in my party I have seen three-four splits,” he said, adding, ”One should not think that an individual is everything in parties. That, I don’t agree with.”

Joint candidates

On the issue of Opposition unity, Mr. Kharge said that like-minded parties who want to defeat the BJP and RSS are welcome to join the “movement”. He also did not rule out the possibility of Opposition parties putting up common candidates against the BJP.

“The mode of journey in the future will be decided after taking everybody on board... That [possibility of joint candidates] will be decided afterwards,” he said.

Karnataka election result will change the country’s political scenario and people’s mood

From the importance of winning the upcoming election in his home State of Karnataka to the alliances being made in the run-up to the 2024 general election and the in-house conflict in Rajasthan, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge spoke to The Hindu on a wide spectrum of issues on April 21. Here are edited excerpts from that interview:

How important is it for you, personally, to win the Assembly polls of your home State of Karnataka?

Instead of personal importance, I believe it is very important for us to win this election in the interest of the country. The country is facing so many problems: democratic norms are being violated, Constitution is ignored, autonomous bodies are misused and there is no law and order not only in Karnataka, but elsewhere also. Those who are ruling the States and the country are ignoring the existing laws. Instead of allowing the executive and the judiciary to implement laws, they are taking rules and regulations in their hands. That’s why it is very important — not only for me and my State but for the prestige of the country — to win this election. This election will definitely change the entire country’s political scenario and change the people’s mood.

From Siddaramaiah to D.K. Shivakumar, the Congress seems to be divided into factions when it comes to choosing a Chief Ministerial face. Though you clarified the issue in the Kolar rally, yet your name keeps cropping up...

My name always comes. Even the ruling government takes my name just to divert the attention of the people because they are facing anti-incumbency. Now, I am an AICC [All India Congress Committee] president and I have the power to appoint so many Chief Ministers. But still journalists are asking me, ‘Are you going to become CM?’ Now, I want to see that my party should come to power in States and whosoever gets majority in the Assembly, the elected MLAs and the high command decide on who will become the CM.

We have consulted several people including district Congress presidents, local leaders, and all are involved in this election process. It’s not just about Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar. There is no dispute, but differences of opinion will be there and we have sorted them.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi keeps attacking the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), but your party gave a ticket to an RSS person and former BJP CM Jagadish Shettar within minutes of his induction.

That’s an individual case. Rahul ji and I still oppose the RSS. I oppose Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ideology. If the leader comes saying that I accept your leadership and ideology, then naturally, the party weighs the minus and plus points and then takes him. For example, Veerendra Patil was in Kalaburagi in a different party. We opposed each other for a long time but he joined the Congress and Madam Indira Gandhi asked us to support him. We supported him. So such things happen. We take such cases on merit.

The Congress is reaching out to important communities like the Lingayat community, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be very popular across communities. How will you counter this?

This is a State election and the people who led the party and the government should say what they have done to Karnataka. How much investment they got, how much infrastructure they built, how much irrigation they developed, how many roads built, and how they maintained Bangalore city which is called the Silicon Valley of India. And the ‘40% commission’ corruption. We are asking what you people have done during your regime. Is Modi going to become the Chief Minister of the State? The BJP leaders seeking votes in the name of Modi.

While the Congress seems confident of a clear majority, political observers don’t rule out a hung Assembly, and the BJP may get support from Janata Dal (Secular). What are your thoughts on this?

We are going to form our own government. We are not depending on anybody. Surely, we will get majority and that is our assessment and that is what our survey says. Therefore, if anybody says that we are not going to get that much majority, and it is going to become hung, I don’t believe it.

The Karnataka election would perhaps set the tone for other Assembly elections later this year, like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In Rajasthan, the Congress is witnessing an open and intense tussle between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and senior leader Sachin Pilot. How would you resolve this?

Our people are reaching them and our in-charge secretary is also reaching them. And discussions are going on to bring them together. See, one more thing I want to tell you. Party won’t depend on one individual or two individuals. The party is the institution and in the institution, some individuals come and go. And in my party, I have seen three-four splits. But here, what message I want to give is that, maintain discipline, ask whatever you want from the party lawfully and at the right platform. Traditionally, there is a high command, there is a Working Committee, there are in-charge secretaries, so many people are involved. One should not think that an individual is everything in parties. That, I don’t agree with. I have reached this position after 55 years. No one should be in any hurry in the Congress.

You met Nitish Kumar, Tejashwi Yadav, Sharad Pawar and spoke to Arvind Kejriwal. But parties like Trinamool Congress, BRS, Samajwadi Party, among others, are opposed to the Congress taking the leadership role. Is the Congress ready to give up its claim on leadership?

We neither claimed nor did we tell anybody that we are leading you. We are interested in defeating the BJP-RSS and whosoever wants to come in this process or in this movement, we will welcome. For saving the Constitution, you need hundreds of MPs. For that, we wanted the support of like-minded parties. If anybody does not want to come, it is left to them; the people will judge their performance.

Will we see Opposition parties putting up common candidates against the BJP?

The mode of journey in future will be decided after taking everybody on board. We have given some tasks to some parties where we can’t approach directly and we will be talking to others. That [possibility of joint candidates] will be decided afterwards.

The Congress has raised the issue of social justice and a caste census. Is the caste card going to be the Opposition’s counter to the BJP’s Hindutva card?

That is not true. This is for the welfare of the society, not for getting the votes. We want OBCs, SCs/STs and minorities to get genuine benefits. All welfare measures should be equally distributed. We will know living standards of different communities once the caste census comes out. Per capita income, size of landholdings, education, professionals in each caste and in higher posts, all these things will come out and you can plan skill development programmes accordingly.

Like the Rafale issue before 2019, Rahul Gandhi has focussed on the Adani issue. Will it click with the voters for 2024?

Again, why are we talking of election only? We are raising the issues in the interest of the public and public money is taken. We wanted to explain to the people through Parliament that this is the money you have invested in Life Insurance Corporation or deposited in the bank, but that money is going into someone else’s pockets by relaxing the rules. So, in the interest of the country, we are opposing. Rahul Gandhi asked where you got ₹20,000 crore for investing in shell companies. He asked how many times he [Gautam Adani] came with you [Mr. Modi]. Such questions are embarrassing for the government. So, they disqualified him from the parliament.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.