Going may not be easy for Kharge

Going may not be easy for Kharge

Winning the Gulbarga Lok Sabha seat for another term would have been a cakewalk for Union Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, but for the anti-incumbency and other factors working against him.

 Though he has been able to ward off the anti-incumbency substantially by initiating some development projects in the last five years as minister for labour and employment as well as railways later, securing people’s mandate for the second time in a row will be a tough task.

The Congress has a stronghold in seven of the eight Assembly segments in the constituency reserved for a scheduled caste candidate. Besides, Kharge has several achievements to his credit, including a railway division, initiating work on the Wadi-Gadag line, a number of new trains, developing Gulbarga into a major and modern railway station, creating infrastructure, expediting the long-pending Bidar-Gulbarga line, a coach factory at Yadgir, the ESIC medical education complex, the Skill Development Centre and a couple of national highway projects.

Above all, his key role in ensuring the enactment of the Article 371 (j) Amendment Act, which accords special status to the Hyderabad-Karnataka region.

Yet Kharge is made to sweat it out in the run-up in the hustings, due to the anti-incumbency heavily hanging against the UPA government and Kharge as well, apart from the Modi wave. In the last election, he scraped through a very uncomfortable margin of over 13,000 votes against Revu Naik Belamagi (BJP) who is taking him on in this election, too.

A major disadvantage for Kharge is his inaccessibility to the common man. “We are never allowed to meet him. We have to depend on mediators to approach him to convey our grievances. He is always surrounded by big shots,” said Shantappa of Farahatabad.  

Besides, Muslims, who are seen as a vote bank for Kharge and his party, have lost interest in both. “In every election, the Congress pampers us and later forgets us. Kharge has hardly done anything for us. A few individual Muslims may have prospered,” rues Mukram Pasha, a small vendor in Mominpur.

“The defeat of the Congress candidate, Iqbal Ahmed Saradagi, in the Legislative Council election and the transfer of IGP Wazir Mohammed have hurt us badly,” said Mohammed Hussain and Syed Quadri. Some of them may support the JD(S), but many others may not even vote, the youth said. 

A majority of the 4.5 lakh Lingayats do not find the Congress comfortable. “In Gulbarga division, out of the five parliamentary constituencies, three are reserved and in the remaining two, the candidates from the OBCs have been given ticket. Lingayats are sidelined,” said Shivalingappa, an employee of a private firm.

For Belamagi, accessibility is the major asset. He could be found on the streets of Gulbarga, listening to the grievances of the people, irrelevant of the fact whether he addressed them or not. 

“I will vote for the BJP. Modi is the most suitable to lead this country,” asserted Rachappaa of Itga village, who works at a salon in Gulbarga. Voters in rural areas feel the mega projects Kharge has taken up will not be of any help to rural people. “Kharge has been at the helm of affairs for the last four decades, why Gulbarga has still remained most backward,” asked Basavantappa, a teacher at a private school.

However, the educated and urban voters, irrespective of caste and creed, prefer Kharge to be elected. “Though belatedly, he did initiate a number of measures for development. To follow up on them, his presence in Parliament is essential. What can Belamagi do? He is an illiterate,” said Ashok Kumar, employed with an insurance company.

For the first time, the election campaign is witnessing a welcome change. People have started speaking about development and performance, and Kharge too has been responding positively. Having faced 10 elections in a row successfully, his followers don’t see any reason to fret. “The SCs, STs, Muslims and OBCs are still strongly behind the Congress,” they argue.

Others among the total eight candidates in the poll fray are dalit leader D G Sagar (JD-S), B T Lalitha Nayak (AAP) and Dhanni Mahadev (BSP).

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