All India Congress Committee president Mallikarjun Kharge is under pressure to ensure victory for his party, especially in Kalaburagi and the surrounding areas, in the Karnataka assembly polls. It is the first election for him in his native state after becoming the AICC president.
Kharge has also been waiting for a long time to avenge the defeat in the last Lok Sabha election in his home turf Kalaburagi. He was defeated by a margin of 95,452 votes by BJP candidate Umesh Jadhav.
The defeat badly affected the veteran Congress politician hailing from the oppressed class. At a time, when the BJP is in an experimentation mode in Karnataka and is facing allegations of humiliating the Lingayat leadership, Kharge is strategising to deliver a body blow to the saffron party in the Kalyan-Karnataka region known as the Hyderabad-Karnataka region.
It is a matter of prestige for Kharge's family in the region. His son Priyank Kharge, a former minister, is contesting from Chittapur reserve constituency in Kalaburagi district. The Congress has managed to lure Baburao Chinchanasur, an influential leader from the Koli community which plays a decisive role in the region, from the BJP.
Chinchanasur vowed to defeat the BJP in 20 seats. But, he met with an accident and is carrying out a campaign from the hospital. Mallikarjun Kharge is leading the attack from the front by targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
At a public rally, Kharge likened Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a poisonous snake and warned the people not to chew the bait given by him claiming that they will die. The statement stirred a controversy and became national news.
Later, Kharge retracted his statement and maintained that he meant to target the ideology PM Modi represents and does not have personal enmity with him.
Recently, the BJP wrested the Kalaburagi City Corporation. The saffron party captured the posts independently for the first time in history and came to power there after 12 years. Modi noted the victory and chided Kharge during a speech at a public rally.
Political analyst B. Samiulla told IANS that it is to be seen how Kharge will counter Modi in the upcoming assembly election in his native state. "If he manages to win a significant number of seats for his party, it is going to be a feather in his cap. If he loses, many questions will raised about his leadership."
Samiulla stated that if the Congress is defeated in the elections it will primarily become a north Indian party, when it comes to governance. Karnataka is the link for the party to south India. That is why the Congress has come to the state with an aggressive and powerful strategy. The AICC is actively carrying out the mission. Kharge knows this and is putting in all efforts, he added.
R. R. Manoor, a senior journalist from Kalaburagi, told IANS that Kharge has considerable influence in the region. He has maintained a clean image for five decades and there is not a single allegation of corruption against him. He has held powerful positions in the state and central governments.
His clean politics should be recognized by the younger generation and young voters are more in number. The selection of Congress candidates has been done meticulously. However, the voters are yet undecided, he claimed.