Kharge; fearless and gentle, a fighter till the end

Mallikarjun Kharge, the veteran Congress leader served in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly from 1972 to 2009.

Mallikarjun Kharge | ANI

The All India Congress Committee (AICC) on Wednesday elected Mallikarjun Kharge as the party president. With this, Kharge has become the first non-Gandhi member to head the grand old party in the last 24 years. In his fight for the top post Kharge has defeated Shashi Tharoor, who claimed himself as the candidate of change.

Among the two candidates, Kharge was widely considered the favourite, owing to his connection with the Gandhi family. Tharoor had criticised some leaders for openly coming out in support of his opponent and accused them of disrupting a 'level-playing field'. But Tharoor, Kharge and the Congress had said that there was no 'official candidate'.

Who is Mallikarjun Kharge?

Born on 21 July 1942, the former Union minister was an active participant in students' politics from his college years. Hailing from Warawatti village in Bidar district, Karnataka, he completed his graduation from Government Arts and Science College at Kalaburagi.

Kharge pursued law at the Seth Shankarlal Lahoti Law College in Kalaburagi. The veteran Congress leader served in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly from 1972 to 2009.

From 1976 to 1978, he served as the Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education in the Karnataka Cabinet. In 1979, he became the Karnataka Cabinet minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj and later, from 1980 to 1983, he was the Revenue minister of the state.

In 1983, he became the Congress Legislature Party Secretary in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly. He has also served as the Karnataka Legislative Assembly Deputy Leader of Opposition in 1985.

Gentle and soft spoken, Kharge is the best bet for sustaining the Gandhi family's control over the party. Earlier he suffered humiliation when the party refused to make him the CM of Karnataka in spite of his impeccable credentials.

But the Congress has now rewarded the veteran leader with the top post at a very critical juncture. He is the sixth leader from the south to lead the party in the post independent era.

The others being Pattabhi Sitaramayya, N Sanjiva Reddy, K Kamaraj, S Nijalingappa and P V Narasimha Rao.

Kharge proved his mettle in 2014 when he was made the leader of the party in the Loksabha. He led a team of 44 MPS bravely and convincingly against the aggressive BJP which found it tough to corner a leader who knew the nuanced layers of resistance like the palm of his hand. Born into a dalit family Kharge later embraced Buddhism.

Journey with Congress

After starting his political career as a student leader,Kharge became the president of Gulbarga City Congress Committee in Karnataka in 1969. Later, in 1988, he was made the vice-president of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee.

He continued in the position till 1989. The party made him the president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee in 2005.

Lok Sabha and Union Cabinet

Kharge was elected to the 15th Lok Sabha in 2009. The two-time Lok Sabha MP served as the Union Cabinet Minister for Labour and Employment from 31 May 2009 to 17 June 2013, in the second UPA government. He was later made the Union Cabinet Minister for Railways and Social Justice and Empowerment (additional charge) from 17 June 2013 to 26 May 2014.

During his second term in the Lok Sabha, he became the Leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, he lost to BJP's Umesh Jadhav.

Rajya Sabha

In 2020, the Congress leader was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka. Kharge served as the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Rajya Sabha from February 2021 to October 2022. He resigned from the post of LoP to contest in the party's presidential election.

Kharge's promises

In a statement released before the presidential election, the Congress leader said that he would, 'make it a priority to implement the Udaipur Declaration including '50 under 50' formula to keep half the positions for all those who are under 50 years of age'.

He also said that no office bearer, who has completed five years, should continue in the same position owing to a successful selection or election of a new candidate.

Kharge said he would focus on strengthening the party machinery at all levels and added that all pending appointments would be made immediately.

The Congress leader also said that he would initiate a dialogue with party workers at all levels. 'Our workers will have a say in key appointments. Party loyalists will be given preference in all important positions,' he said.

(Compiled by Priyada KS)

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