Missed chance at CM's chair, but now Congress chief: The rise and rise of Mallikarjun Kharge

Born into a poor family in Karnataka’s Gulbarga district, Mallikarjun Kharge studied law and practised for a time before joining the Congress in 1969. The 80-year-old is an eight-time MLA, two-time Lok Sabha MP, and is currently a Rajya Sabha member

FP Explainers October 19, 2022 15:25:51 IST
Missed chance at CM's chair, but now Congress chief: The rise and rise of Mallikarjun Kharge

Mallikarjun Kharge is the first non-Gandhi Congress president in 24 years. PTI

Mallikarjun Kharge made on Wednesday made history by defeating Shashi Tharoor in the race for Congress president, becoming the first non-Gandhi party chief in 24 years.

Kharge emerged victorious by an overwhelming majority, receiving 7,897 votes compared just to 1,000 for Tharoor, while 416 votes were deemed invalid.

Tharoor, his rival for the top Congress job, immediately issued a statement conceding defeat and congratulated the new Congress president-elect.

“I believe the revival of our party has truly begun today,” Tharoor said in his statement.

But who is Kharge? What do we know about him?

Let’s take a closer look:

Who is Mallikarjun Kharge?

Known as a Gandhi family loyalist, 80-year-old Mallikarjun Kharge is an eight-time MLA, two-time Lok Sabha MP, and currently a Rajya Sabha member.

Kharge, a leader from the Dalit community, has stayed away from controversies and maintained a clean image throughout his decades-old political career.

Born on 21 July, 1942, in a poor family in Karnataka’s Gulbarga district, Kharge studied law and practised for a time before joining the Congress in 1969, as per Indian Express.

Kharge ventured into electoral politics in 1972 and four years later, he became a minister for the first time in the Devaraj Urs government.

Missed chance at CMs chair but now Congress chief The rise and rise of Mallikarjun Kharge

Mallikarjun Kharge is defeated Shashi Tharoor in the race for Congress president. PTI File Photo

He won from his home constituency of Gulbarga nine consecutive times in the Karnataka Assembly elections between 1972 and 2008.

After that, he shifted to national politics and was victorious in two successive Lok Sabha polls (2009 and 2014) from the Gulbarga seat.

In 1994, Kharge was appointed the Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly, a role he assumed again in 2008.

Kharge has served as a minister in six different governments in Karnataka but missed his chance at the chief minister post thrice– in 1999, 2004 and 2013.

In 1999, he lost the Karnataka chief minister chair to SM Krishna and had to settle for the home portfolio.

Dharam Narayan Singh was made the chief minister in 2004. As per News18, Kharge’s supporters had beseeched him to express his dissatisfaction with Sonia Gandhi and decline the ministerial berth. However, the seasoned leader had rejected their requests, saying he never went against the Gandhis and would not embarrass them.

In 2013, Congress came back with a thumping majority in Karnataka and Siddaramaiah was sworn oath as the chief minister.

Working as the president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee in 2005-08, Kharge had delivered Congress the largest number of seats against the then ruling alliance of BJP and JD(S), notes The Hindu.

He worked as Union minister in the Manmohan Singh government– first as Labour minister (May 2009-June 2013) and then as minister of Railways (June 2013-May 2014).

From 2014-19, he was the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha.

Kharge, known as ‘solillada saradara’ (a leader without defeat), suffered the first loss in his electoral career in 2019 when he was trounced by the BJP’s Umesh Jadhav in the Gulbarga Lok Sabha constituency by a margin of 95,452 votes.

However, the Congress leadership brought him back to the Parliament through the Rajya Sabha route and he was elected unopposed to the Upper House in June 2020 from Karnataka.

Missed chance at CMs chair but now Congress chief The rise and rise of Mallikarjun Kharge

Mallikarjun Kharge flanked by several senior Congress leaders when he submitted his nomination papers for Congress president. PTI

A follower of Buddhism, Kharge is the founder-chairman of Siddharth Vihar Trust which constructed the Buddha Vihar complex in Gulbarga, as per The Times of India.

Kharge played a significant role in granting the special status for six districts of the Kalyana Karnataka region under Article 371J of the Constitution during the second UPA government, reports The Hindu.

The veteran leader has  become the sixth from southern India to hold the top Congress post after Independence.

The other leaders include B Pattabhi Sitaramayya, N Sanjiva Reddy, K Kamaraj, S Nijalingappa and P V Narasimha Rao.

Kharge will become the second politician from Karnataka to helm the grand old party after Lingayat community leader S Nijalingappa, who held the Congress president post from 1968-69,.

With inputs from agencies

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