Mallikarjun Kharge: Is this 'Solillada Saradara' Poised to Become India's First Dalit Prime Minister?

Whether navigating the turbulent waters of the Cauvery river dispute or steering through the unprecedented crisis of the kidnapping of the iconic Kannada superstar, late Rajkumar, Mallikarjun Kharge emerged as the stalwart Home Minister of Karnataka over two decades ago. His adept handling of these critical situations showcased not only his political acumen but also his ability to navigate complex and sensitive issues with a steady hand.
Mallikarjun Kharge made history in October 2022 as the first non-Gandhi leader in 25 years to be elected as INC party president, signaling a transformative shift.
Mallikarjun Kharge made history in October 2022 as the first non-Gandhi leader in 25 years to be elected as INC party president, signaling a transformative shift.

New Delhi: The corridors of Indian politics are witnessing a paradigm shift as the spotlight turns to Mallikarjun Kharge, a seasoned political stalwart known not only for his astute leadership but also for his unwavering commitment to Buddhist principles and the teachings of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. India Alliance meeting in New Delhi concluded on Tuesday, addressed critical discussions on seat sharing and potential candidates for the Prime Ministerial post in the upcoming 2024 elections.

Sources reveal that TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, a key player in the alliance, has proposed Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge as a nominee for the position, a suggestion backed by AAP Chief Arvind Kejriwal. Interestingly, there were prior speculations that Mamata Banerjee might consider herself for the PM candidacy. Sources also revealed that Mamata Banerjee nominated Mallikarjun Kharge for the role of convenor of India Alliance, a proposal that was seconded by Arvind Kejriwal.

Kharge, a prominent Dalit leader, has now emerged as a prominent contender for the Prime Ministerial role, receiving support not only from the Gandhi family but also from various quarters.

Kharge's nomination takes on added significance, weaving together political acumen with a profound belief in the tenets of Buddhism and Ambedkarite ideals. A practicing Buddhist, Kharge's commitment to his beliefs is evident in the establishment of the Buddha Vihar in Kalaburagi, housing a Buddhist temple and spiritual center. As a staunch Ambedkarite, Mallikarjun R Kharge now stands at the precipice of history, prompting the question: will he be the first Dalit Prime Minister, breaking new ground in India's political landscape?

Polymath Athlete: Mallikarjun Kharge's Diverse Prowess

Beyond the political arena, Mallikarjun Kharge is a polymath, fluent in six languages, including Marathi, Urdu, Telugu, Hindi, Kannada, and English. A former athlete excelling in hockey, football, and Kabaddi, he brings not just political acumen but a diverse set of skills to the forefront. With a law degree and prior service as the union labour minister in Dr. Manmohan Singh's cabinet, Kharge embodies a self-made journey characterized by resilience and versatility.

His remarkable journey began against the backdrop of adversity when, at the tender age of seven, he fled his village in Bidar district with his father following attacks by the Nizam of Hyderabad's private army. He was returning home from the field where his father was an agricultural labourer, when Kharge saw his house set on fire. The tragic loss of his mother and sister in the fire during those tumultuous times shaped his indomitable spirit.

He completed his schooling at Nutan Vidyalaya in Gulbarga, where his academic journey began. Subsequently, he pursued higher education, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Government College in Gulbarga. Continuing his academic pursuits, Kharge then obtained his law degree from the Seth Shankarlal Lahoti Law College in Gulbarga.

Armed with a legal education, Kharge embarked on his professional career by starting his legal practice as a junior in Justice Shivaraj Patil's office. Early in his legal career, he chose to champion the causes of labor unions, reflecting his commitment to social justice and advocacy for the rights of workers. He became the legal advisor to MSK mills in Kalaburagi and a trade union leader of Samyukta Mazdoor Sangh in 1969.

This phase marked the initial steps of Mallikarjun Kharge's journey into law and laid the groundwork for his subsequent entry into the realm of politics, where he would become a prominent figure known for his dedication to justice and public service.

Nicknamed the "Solillada Sardara," translating to the undefeated warrior, Mallikarjun M Kharge has etched a remarkable political career spanning from the early '70s to 2019. His journey commenced with his election to the 5th Mysore Assembly from Gurmitkal, a reserved constituency (till 2008) in Kalaburagi district during his first term in 1972, marking the genesis of a political legacy that would remain undefeated for nearly four decades. He represented Gurmitkal till 2008, when the constituency became unreserved and opted for Chitapur, a constituency which is now represented by his son and former minister Priyank Kharge.

From his inaugural triumph in 1972, Mallikarjun Kharge demonstrated an unmatched resilience, securing victory in each subsequent state election until the 15th Karnataka Assembly in 2008. This unparalleled winning streak earned him the moniker of the "Solillada Sardara".

Breaking new ground, Kharge transitioned to the national stage by securing a seat in the 15th Lok Sabha in 2009, representing the Gulbarga constituency. His success continued in the 2014 elections, further solidifying his standing as a political force to be reckoned with.

However, the indomitable streak faced its first challenge in the 17th Lok Sabha elections in 2019, marking a rare moment in Kharge's political journey where victory eluded him. Despite this setback, his resilience remained undiminished.

Undeterred by the setback, Mallikarjun Kharge showcased his adaptability and commitment to public service by securing election to the Rajya Sabha in 2020, reinforcing his presence in the national political landscape.

October 1, 2022, marked a historic shift within the INC. Mallikarjun Kharge's was elected as the party president and he became the first leader outside the illustrious Gandhi family to assume this esteemed position in a quarter of a century, breaking a longstanding tradition.

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