The results of the Lok Sabha elections for the Gulbarga segment has delivered a massive blow to veteran Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge. Dr Umesh Jadav, the BJP candidate from Gulbarga has emerged a giant slayer, winning with a margin of almost one lakh votes. Kharge lost to Jadav with a margin of 95,452 votes.
A nine-time MLA from Chittapur segment in Gulbarga and a two-time MP from Gulbarga Lok Sabha constituency, 76-year-old Mallikarjun Kharge had remained undefeated in every election he had contested in prior to 2019.
“Our party’s incumbent MLAs and zilla panchayat leaders and cadre worked very hard to help me win. I want to convey my heartfelt thanks to them. Although they worked hard, their efforts did not bear fruit. We have to respect the decision of the people in a democracy. If any of the leaders and cadre are disgruntled, we will try to bring them back. We will try to strengthen our party,” Mallikarjun Kharge said.
With the exception of the 1996 and 1998 Lok Sabha elections, the Gulbarga seat has always remained a stronghold of the Congress party. With the BJP lacking good candidates to field, as the heavyweights of the region were allied with Kharge, the Congress had maintained its edge in the segment. With Kharge’s friends turning foes and Congress loyalists defecting to the BJP, the fight became difficult for the grand old party.
Kharge had been severely disadvantaged in Gulbarga after several Congress heavyweights including Mallikayya Guttedar the MLA from Afzalpur and a leader of the Ediga community, and Baburao Chinchasur MLA of the Gurmitkal segment and a leader of the Koli community joined the BJP ahead of the Karnataka Assembly elections. Soon after these defections, Umesh Jadav, former MLA of Chincholi too deserted the Congress.
Kharge, who served as the Union Labour Minister in 2009, won the Gulbarga segment once more in 2014 with a huge margin of 74,700 votes. However, this time, the competition was stiff as Guttedar, Chinchasur and Jadav, who belong to dominant communities in Gulbarga were working against Kharge.
Kharge was accused of promoting and favouring his son – Priyank Kharge over senior leaders from Gulbarga. This led to Mallikayya Guttedar, Baburao Chinchasur and Umesh Java quitting the party. When the coalition government came to power in 2018, Umesh Jadav expected to be given a cabinet berth. However, the portfolio was given to Priyank, who is only a two-time MLA whilst Jadav is a senior leader in the party. Similarly, in a run up to the Assembly elections in 2018, Chinchasur and Guttedar had defected to the BJP, alleging that Kharge did not appreciate them and was only interested in promoting his son Priyank.
In the last few months, Kharge had managed to make a few prominent BJP leaders in the area leave the party and join the Congress instead. While Kharge had the support of a majority of Dalits and minorities, Jadav was banking on the votes of the Banjara community and the Lingayats who have largely aligned with the BJP. Lingayats form the biggest chunk of voters in Gulbarga.
While Jadav had campaigned using the Modi factor, Kharge had appealed to the sympathy of Gulbarga’s voters. Time and again, Kharge had stressed that this would be his last election. In a speech he gave at a gathering in Sedam, Kharge had said, “The people of Kalburgi have elected me in the last 11 elections I contested. This time too, I am confident they will elect me. This will be my last election.” But it seems Kharge’s confidence did not help him to win the seat.