Mapanna Mallikarjun Kharge, who was today appointed the leader of Congress party in the Lok Sabha, is a hardcore loyalist of the Gandhi family.
A Dalit leader with more than 45 years of experience in politics, Kharge, 72, has seen a steady rise in his career graph from humble beginnings as a union leader in his home district of Gulbarga where he had always been in the forefront of championing the workers' cause. That Kharge was unconquerable at the hustings was mirrored in recent Lok Sabha polls in which he bucked the Narendra Modi wave that swept Karnataka, particularly Hyderabad-Karnataka region. He won from Gulbarga with a margin of over 74,000 votes.
Kharge has won from Gurmitkal assembly constituency nine times in a row before he plunged into the Lok Sabha poll arena in 2009. He is now the second-time MP from Gulbarga. A hard-boiled Congressman and loyal to the core to the Gandhi family, Kharge has played multiple roles in different ministries that has enriched his experience as an administrator. He has also served as the leader of the opposition in Karnataka assembly and at the central level as also in the party where he had served as KPCC chief during 2008 assembly polls.
Sober by temperament and nature, Kharge has never landed in any political trouble spot or controversy.
Born in a poor family at Warwatti in Gulbarga district, he did his schooling and BA as well as Law in Gulbarga. He was into legal practice for some time before plunging into politics.
An influential union leader in the region who never hestitated to take up cudgels for the working class, Kharge had his political baptism in 1969 when he joined Congress and became the President of Gulbarga City Congress Committee. Since then, he has never looked back.
Kharge first tryst with the assembly was in 1972 when he won from Gurmitkal constituency and became a member of the Devaraj Urs government as Minister of State for Primary Education in 1976. He also served in the Gundu Rao ministry in 1980 during which the spotlight was on effective land reforms that saw formation of tribunals to transfer land rights to the tillers.
Kharge was a member of the S Bangarappa cabinet in 1990 and of M Veerappa Moily from 1992 to 1994. His role changed in 1994 when he became the opposition leader in the assembly. The veteran Congress leader had eyed the Chief Minister's post but it has always eluded him, apparently because he carried the tag of a Janata Parivar man.
In 1999, he was among the contenders for the post but was pipped by SM Krishna under whom he had served as Home Minister.
A similar chance had come in 2004 but then too, Kharge missed it with the top post going to his thick friend N Dharam Singh who headed Congress-JDS coalition and he worked under him. Kharge was picked for the post of KPCC chief in 2005 and was made the leader of the opposition for the second time in 2008. He lost another chance to become the Chief Minister in 2013 when the party made a clean sweep, bringing down the first ever BJP government in Karnataka and in the South.
The challenge from Kharge for the CM post this time was real but as a loyal partyman, he yielded to Siddaramaiah who was preferred by the party high command. But Kharge was suitably rewarded by the party which gave him the plum railway portfolio. Kharge is also connected with various philaonthropic and social activities. He is married to Radhabai and has three sons and two daughters.