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Lok Sabha polls 2024 | Kharge toils hard to turn the tide in Gulbarga through son-in-law in tough contest

Congress wants to wrest Gulbarga back at any cost; failure in regaining the lost bastion of its chief will be a huge embarrassment for it.
Last Updated : 03 May 2024, 10:45 IST
Last Updated : 03 May 2024, 10:45 IST

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Kalaburagi (Karnataka): Will the son-in-law avenge the defeat of AICC President Mallikarjun Kharge, or will the Surgeon, who created history by ensuring the Congress stalwart's first ever electoral loss in his home turf, recreate history ?

The contest in Gulbarga Lok Sabha segment has hotted up, amid scorching summer.

Congress wants to wrest Gulbarga back at any cost; failure in regaining the lost bastion of its chief will be a huge embarrassment for it.

The BJP is fighting to retain this high profile SC reserved segment to assert itself in this region, which was for long the grand old party's citadel.

The 81-year-old Kharge has opted out of the electoral race, citing his age along with the role of managing the party nationally and coordinating with the I.N.D.I.A. bloc. The party has fielded his son-in-law Radhakrishna Doddamani, a businessman who also manages educational institutions.

While the BJP has once again fielded Umesh Jadhav, a medical surgeon, who emerged as the giant-slayer by defeating Kharge in 2019.

Considered to be the gateway for the Kalyana Karnataka region, which is among the backward areas of the state — Gulbarga, now known by its old name Kalaburagi or Kalburgi (stony land) was part of the region that was transferred from Hyderabad State to Karnataka at the time of re-organisation of the state in 1956.

Famous for toor dal and the limestone deposits, the region once hosted the celebrated capital of Rashtrakuta kingdom.

Kharge, who is Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, had won from Gulbarga segment twice (2009, 2014), but lost the 2019 polls to Jadhav by 95,452 votes. Popularly known as 'Solillada Saradara', (a leader without defeat), for Kharge, who was nine-time MLA, that was the first electoral loss in his political life spanning several decades.

Jadhav had quit as Congress MLA and joined the BJP to contest 2019 Lok Sabha election from Gulbarga.

The 2019 election was considered a tough one for Kharge, as senior leaders of Congress like Baburao Chinchansur, A B Malaka Reddy and Malikayya Guttedar, from the region had quit the party and joined the BJP.

These leaders along with Jadhav, who had quit the Congress upset over the 'dominance' of Kharge and his Minister-son Priyank Kharge, in the region, found a common ground and aggressively campaigned against the father-son duo.

However, all these three leaders have now gone back to the Congress, and are campaigning for the party candidate.

Jadhav, who seems to have maintained his popularity with his work as an MP, especially among his Banjara community, is also banking on Modi charisma. In fact, the Prime Minister began his Karnataka campaign from Gulbarga.

"However big or small the opponent is, election is election. We will fight, taking the election seriously and considering the opponent as strong. People have realised they made a wrong decision in Assembly polls believing in guarantees (pre-poll promises of Congress). Law and order has deteriorated," Jadhav said, asserting people are in favour of BJP and Modi.

Doddamani, while maintaining a low profile, has always worked actively behind the scenes in managing and strategising for Kharge's successive electoral campaigns, and is said to be popular among party workers and supporters.

Kharge, Priyank Kharge have extensively campaigned for Doddamani, and so did top party leaders including Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his deputy D K Shivakumar, indicating the importance of the segment for Congress, which is also banking on guarantee schemes.

Seeking to strike an emotional chord with the people of his home constituency Gulbarga, Kharge during a public meeting here last month 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 appealed.

Doddamani said he is getting good response from the people and is confident about winning the seat. 'I'm not new to the constituency, I know the workers and people here.'

Gulbarga has eight assembly seats of which Congress currently holds six, and BJP and JD(S) one each. Before 2019, Congress had lost its hold over the constituency only in 1996 and 1998 Lok Sabha polls when the Janata Dal and BJP had won the seat, respectively.

Lingayats and SC community have dominance in the segment, which also has considerable Muslim voters.

"We want Modi once again. Kharge has done good work, but Modi did more here and for the country. Jadhav will win once again. Kharge's charisma has diminished because of Congress," an auto driver in Kalaburagi said.

A woman professional said, "If Kharge had himself contested it would have been good, Doddamani is new...but Congress will win, Kharge has worked a lot here, it will benefit the party."

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Published 03 May 2024, 10:45 IST

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