Mallikarjun Kharge’s possible elevation could be asset to Congress ahead of 2023 Karnataka Assembly polls

A Dalit leader with a consistently clean image and a vocal critic of the Modi government, Kharge has been ardently espousing the need for unity of non-BJP parties “to save democracy and the Constitution”

September 30, 2022 04:36 pm | Updated 07:05 pm IST - Bengaluru

Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge speaks to the media after filing his nomination papers for the post of party President, at AICC headquarters in New Delhi on September 30, 2022.

Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge speaks to the media after filing his nomination papers for the post of party President, at AICC headquarters in New Delhi on September 30, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

A staunch loyalist of the Nehru-Gandhi family and veteran Congress leader, who is also Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjiun Kharge officially entered the race to become the next All India Congress Committee (AICC) president on Friday.

Opposition unity

Filing of nomination papers by senior party leader Mr Kharge assumed significance in many ways. A vocal critic of the Narendra Modi-led government, he has been ardently espousing the need for unity of non-BJP parties “to save democracy and the Constitution”, which could gain traction ahead of the crucial 2024 general elections.

A leader belonging to the Dalit community, he has had a consistently clean image. His elevation to head the grand old party would be a big asset and give a boost to the Congress cadre in Karnataka that goes to Assembly polls in less than eight months.

Second from Karnataka

Given the tacit blessings of the Congress’ first family, Mr Kharge is likely to get the support of the party’s rank and file. His election as AICC president will make him the second politician from Karnataka to occupy the coveted post after the veteran Lingayat community leader S Nijalingappa, who led the party in 1968-69, when the Congress faced electoral disenchantment in several parts of the country after the 1967 debacle. If he is elected, two posts in the Congress will be occupied by leaders of Karnataka. B V Srinivas is currently serving as the president of the Youth Congress.

Born July 21, 1942, Kharge, a law-graduate, got elected as member of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly nine consecutive times (1972-2008) and won two Lok Sabha elections (2009 and 2014) from Kalaburagi constituency. After his defeat from the constituency in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, he was elected unopposed to the Upper House of the parliament on June 12, 2020, from Karnataka.

With the reputation of being a no-nonsense leader, Mr. Kharge has vast experience as a minister in six different governments in the State and also as Union Minister in the Manmohan Singh government. He is expected to unite different factions of the party.

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge filing the nomination for the post of Congress President at AICC, in New Delhi on September 30, 2022.

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge filing the nomination for the post of Congress President at AICC, in New Delhi on September 30, 2022. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Special status to Kalyana Karnataka

In Karnataka, he played a major role in granting of special status to six districts of the Kalyana Karnataka region under Article 371J of the Constitution during the UPA-II government. Till then, all political parties over the past four decades were pleading the Centre to confer special status to the backward region.

Two missed chances

Though he emerged as a front runner for the chief minister’s chair in the State in 1999 and 2004, he was denied the post. He was the Minister for Home in the S.M. Krishna-led government under trying times, especially during Kannada actor Rajkumar’s kidnapping by the notorious poacher Veerappan and the Cauvery river water conflict.

Mr Kharge served as the president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee during 2005-08 and it was during his tenure that Congress won the largest number of seats against the then ruling coalition BJP and JD(S).

He was the Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly twice (1994 and 2008) and Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha too. His son and MLA Priyank Kharge served as a Minister in the previous Congress government.

Top News Today

Comments

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.