Backing Mallikarjun Kharge Has Been Rahul Gandhi's Best Decision: 9 Reasons Why

After the Karnataka victory, Mallikarjun Kharge has turned his focus to the national picture.

5 min read
Hindi Female

One of the major national consequences of the Congress' victory in Karnataka, is the enhanced political stature of party president Mallikarjun Kharge.

Kharge led from the front and help deliver his home state in a convincing manner. He used his seniority and thorough knowledge of the state to balance between the two main contenders – Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar – right through the campaign till their swearing as CM and Deputy CM.

Buoyed by the victory, the Congress president has now turned his focus to the national picture. He held an important meeting with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in Delhi on 22 May, their second meeting in little over a month.

Then he is likely to hold a high-level meeting to kickstart the Congress' preparations for five Assembly polls due later this year – Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana.

There are nine aspects that are working for Kharge presently.


1. 24/7 Politician

The Congress president is known to be a relentless politician. He addressed over 40 rallies in the Karnataka elections and countless behind-the-scenes meetings, not just within the party but also with social organisations.

Sources in the Congress say that Kharge is willing to dialogue for as long as it takes to settle any matter. Convincing DK Shivakumar to become Deputy CM is one such example.

Under the Gandhis, the Congress high command had acquired an image of being unapproachable. Kharge is changing that.

2. The Kharge-Rahul Gandhi Equation

Though Kharge is the president of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi is clearly its mass face, especially after the Bharat Jodo Yatra. In fact, this division between the two seems to suit the Congress at least as of now.

Rahul Gandhi works to energise the party cadre and base, while Kharge runs the party and manages crises

The manner in which Kharge became president and has been working since, indicates a high degree of trust between him and Rahul Gandhi.
After the Karnataka victory, Mallikarjun Kharge has turned his focus to the national picture.

Though not a rubber stamp, Kharge and Rahul Gandhi are on the same page on most issues.

The positive part has been that Rahul Gandhi seems to be letting Kharge have the limelight. Take for instance the manner in which the final decision on the Karnataka leadership was followed by photographs of both the contenders with Kharge.


There were similar photographs of Rahul Gandhi with the contenders in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in 2018. What happened later in these states is of course another matter. The point here is that Rahul Gandhi could very easily have been in that picture instead of Kharge. No one would deny that he too had a role in the final decision.

But the optics mattered. The pictures made it clear that the final call lay with Kharge.

3. Accommodative but Firm, Looks at the Larger Picture

Kharge and Siddaramaiah are known to share an uneven history. It is said that Kharge lost in the CM race to Siddaramaiah in 2013. It is also said that Siddaramaiah had a role to play in Kharge being sidelined from state politics and getting sent to the Centre.

However, when it came to deciding the CM, Kharge didn't hold any of this against Siddaramaiah. A video of Kharge and Siddaramaiah at the Congress' post-victory celebrations is quite indicative. In the video, Kharge can be seen playfully pulling his hand away while offering Siddaramaiah a sweet.

"It's a sign of warmth between the two leaders but also a message from the Congress president that what he is giving, he can take away also," a newly elected Karnataka MLA told The Quint.

Many Congress insiders say, Kharge's ability to look at the larger picture and forget smaller rivalries, is a big asset.


4. Unafraid to Take on Modi

The Karnataka campaign also showed that Kharge is not afraid of directly taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This has continued even after the elections, with the Congress president accusing the PM of 'disrespecting propriety' by inaugurating the new Parliament complex instead of the President of India Droupadi Murmu.

He accused the PM and BJP of appointing Dalits and Adivasi Presidents as 'tokenism'.


5. Good Communicator

Kharge is known to be an effective communicator, that too in several languages – Kannada, English, Hindi, Urdu and Marathi.

His videos of speaking in Marathi during the Bharat Jodo Yatra and as banter in Parliament, had gone viral.

6. Greater Acceptability

Kharge being at the helm of the Congress makes it easier for many parties with a history of anti-Congressism to build common ground with the party.

One example of this is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The party has mostly stayed away from Opposition meetings called by Sonia Gandhi but they have attended meetings called by Kharge as Leader of the Opposition.

Even when AAP convenor and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal was summoned by the CBI in April, Kharge spoke to him and extended his solidarity. This gesture surprised many within the Congress.

7. RIP G-23

Kharge's election as Congress president marked a formal end of the G-23, or the group of leaders who had written a letter in 2020 to the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi about the state of affairs in the party.

Some G-23 members like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal and Jitin Prasada had already left the party. Almost all of those of who remained backed Kharge for president over fellow G-23 member Shashi Tharoor.


8. Social Justice Plank

In the past, Kharge is known to have snubbed those who referred to him as a 'Dalit leader'. His belief is that his rise shouldn't be seen as tokenism. However, this doesn't mean he is downplaying his Dalit identity in anyway.

During the Karnataka elections, Kharge personally reached out to several sections of the Dalit civic society in Karnataka in the run-up to the elections. According to the India Today-Axis MyIndia survey, the Congress' support among Dalits rose by 14 percentage points, much more than the five-point increase in its overall vote-share compared to 2018.

Social justice and increased representation to Dalits, Adivasis, and OBCs have become a major talking point for the Congress in the run-up to the 2024 elections.

9. Ideological Commitment

Kharge is firm in his commitment to secularism and is generally not in favour of a soft-Hindutva line. However, he is said to understand practical realities and doesn't oppose showcasing of religiosity. This had become a major issue of discussion both at the Udaipur Chintan Shivir as well as Raipur plenary, with a few leaders from Kerala and Tamil Nadu warning against public religiosity and a few from Northern states emphasising its importance.

Under Kharge, the Congress may be in the process of sharpening its pro-poor pitch.

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