“Kharge factor” plays its part in Congress’ win in 5 of its 9 seats in Karnataka


PTI, Jun 5, 2024, 6:50 PM IST

Credit: PTI / File

Bengaluru: Five out nine Lok Sabha seats that the ruling Congress won in Karnataka came from the Kalyana-Karnataka region, giving a major boost to AICC President Mallikarjun Kharge, who hails from this part of the state.

The NDA got 19 out of 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka, with BJP winning in 17 and JD(S) in two.

The grand old party had in fact lost all the five seats — Bidar, Gulbarga, Raichur, Koppal and Bellary — in this region, in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Kharge himself too had lost from the Gulbarga.

This time in Bidar, Minister Eshwar Khandre’s son Sagar Khandre won by a margin of 1,28,875 votes defeating Union Minister Bhagwanth Khuba, while in Gulbarga Kharge’s son-in-law Radhakrishna Doddamani won by a margin of 27,205 votes defeating MP Umesh Jadhav of the BJP.

In Raichur, former IAS officer G Kumar Naik won by defeating Raja Amareshwara Naik of BJP by 79,781 votes, Rajashekar Hitnal won in Koppal against BJP’s Basavaraj K Sharanappa by 46,357 votes, and in Bellary former Minister E Tukaram defeated BJP’s S T leader and former Minister B Sriramulu by 98,992 votes.

A Congress bastion for a long time, the grand old party had started yielding ground in the region — that was earlier called Hyderabad-Karnataka — in 2009, when BJP had won three seats (Raichur, Koppal and Bellary) with the help of Bellary’s Reddy brothers. Kharge and N Dharam Singh (former CM) were the two from Congress who had managed to win, from Gulbarga and Bidar respectively.

In 2014 too Congress won two seats — Gulbarga (Kharge) and Raichur (B V Nayak), leaving the remaining three to BJP. In 2019, BJP swept the region, winning all the five seats.

This time in 2024, in what is being seen as a turn around, Congress reigned supreme in the region.

The 81-year-old Kharge had opted out of the electoral race, citing his age along with the role of managing the party nationally and coordinating with the INDIA bloc. The party had fielded Doddamani, a businessman who also manages educational institutions.

Infighting and dissidence are said to have led to BJP’s defeat in Bidar and Koppal.

In Bidar, party MLAs Sharanu Salagar (Basavakalyan) and Prabhu Chauhan (Aurad) had opposed the party’s decision to field Khuba. In Koppal, party MP Karadi Sanganna jumped ship to Congress after BJP denied him the ticket.

The “Kharge factor” too seems to have worked for the ruling party in the region, where the veteran is its tallest leader, besides the guarantee schemes launched by the Siddaramaiah government.

For Kharge, who calls himself “Bhoomi Putra” of Karnataka and more so of Kalyana Karnataka region, the Lok Sabha elections in the State were seen as a prestigious battle of sorts, being the AICC chief.

Kharge had put his might behind the party campaign for Lok Sabha polls in the region and had extensively travelled in these constituencies, highlighting his contribution in those districts, including the implementing Article 371(J), which grants special status to backward districts of Hyderabad-Karnataka region (renamed as Kalyana Karnataka).

In the 2019 election, senior leaders of Congress like Baburao Chinchansur, A B Malaka Reddy and Malikayya Guttedar, from the region had quit the party and joined BJP. They were upset over the “dominance” of Kharge and his Minister-son Priyank Kharge, in the region, and found a common ground and aggressively campaigned against the father-son duo.

However, all these three leaders are now back in the Congress, and campaigned for the party candidate; this has too contributed to Congress’ robust performance in the region.

Seeking to strike an emotional chord with the people of the region especially from his home constituency Gulbarga, Kharge had during a public meeting here said: “If you miss your vote this time (if you don’t vote for the Congress candidate), I will think that I don’t have any place here for me and I could not win your heart.”

“Whether you vote for us (Congress) or not, but at least come to my funeral if you think that I have worked for Kalaburagi,” the Congress veteran remarked.

Kharge is also credited in part with playing a key role in keeping factional feuds in the party at bay and saw to it that the outfit faced the polls unitedly.

Party leaders also give credit to Kharge for bringing in a sense of unity among the party leadership in the state.

Kharge, who is now the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, is the second AICC president from Karnataka after S Nijalingappa, and only the second leader from the Dalit community, after Jagjivan Ram, to spearhead India’s grand old party.

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