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My Father, Mallikarjun Kharge

By ARCHANA MASIH
November 07, 2022 16:24 IST
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'What he says, he does.'
'People say if Khargesahab has said something, it will be set in stone.'

IMAGE: Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge at a felicitation programme at the Palace grounds in Bengaluru, November 6, 2022. Photograph: Shailendra Bhojak/PTI Photo

"I admire the way he built his way up in politics. He has overcome the barriers of caste, language and resource to reach where he has," Priyank Kharge, member of the Karnataka assembly, tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih.

"At 80, my father is still willing to learn, and is endowed with immense patience.

If he does not understand anything, he asks. Despite his immense experience, there have been times when he has been in meetings with officers and if the officer starts going too fast, he says please slow down.

He will ask him/her to break it down in order to understand the issue or a proposed policy better.

His review meetings are known to go on for 10 hours. Officers would ensure that they had had a full meal before sitting down with him because they knew there would be no breaks in between.

This willingness to learn is something all politicians must learn.

He is deeply committed to the Constitution, social justice and Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Over the years, he has built the reputation of calling a spade a spade. He does not make false promises. If he feels, it is not possible for him to do something, he will say so. He will not lie or say come tomorrow or we will see; he will tell people to go the right person instead.

The reason why so many people want to meet him is that he gives clarity of thought. People say that if Khargesahab has said something, it is set in stone.

What he says, he does.

 

He has built his way up in politics

He has overcome many obstacles in life. He lost his mother and sister very early unfortunately and not many people, even in his home state Karnataka, knew about it till 10-15 years back.

We as a family knew about it, but he does not like talking about personal agony and hardship in public.

[The son of a farm labourer, Mallikarjun Kharge lost his mother and sister in communal violence in Bidar. He was 7 when his mother and sister were burnt in their home. The family fled Bidar and moved to Gulbarga.]

My father had to rebuild his life in a different city. He had little or no help politically and built his way up in state and national politics.

Both my parents have gone through a lot and we are aware of it.

The only asset that will remain with you is education

IMAGE: Kharge, extreme left, in his youth with then prime minister Indira Gandhi, and former Karnataka chief minister Devraj Urs, standing to Mrs Gandhi's left. Photograph: Kind courtesy Priyank Kharge/Twitter

My father first became an MLA in 1972; two years later the family shifted to Bengaluru after he became a minister in 1974.

My mother did not know English, Hindi or the Kannada spoken in Bangalore. The only reason she shifted to Bangalore was because she wanted to give the children a good education. A lot of credit goes to my mother.

The fact that all of us siblings are doing well is because of our parents and the hardships they endured.

Even now they tell their grandchildren that the only thing that will remain with you is your education. You may earn as much as you want and buy as much property as you want, but the only thing that will stand by you and ensure your success is education.

This is what they told us and inculcate in their grandchildren also.

My mother made it a point that father signed all the report cards.

My elder brother stood first in the Karnataka SSLC examination board exam and first in engineering college. My younger brother got a scholarship and is a graduate from Wharton. Both my sisters are MDs -- one in cardiology and the other in dermatology.

IMAGE: Mallikarjun Kharge accompanied by Karnataka Congress President D K Shivakumar, right, welcomed at the Devanahalli toll plaza in Bengaluru, November 6, 2022, on his first visit to his home state after being elected Congress president. Photograph: PTI Photo

Humility and hard work

It was not easy for my father and mother to come from Gulbarga to Bengaluru and achieve what they have. Those hardships have reflected in me and my siblings. None of them are in politics except me. They are understated and people won't even know that they are Mr Mallikarjun Kharge's children.

The hardships that my parents faced has led to the values of humility that has been inculcated in the family. Sometimes I get pulled up by my sisters and brother for making some nasty political comment. They tell me that that is unbecoming of me, perhaps not as a politician, but as a human being.

Nothing is permanent. It may sound philosophical, but it is a fact for the five of us brothers and sisters.

He is a disciplinarian. He is also an indulgent grandfather. We live in a joint family in Bengaluru. He likes that the children of the house come and wish the guests and speak to them when they visit the home.

He makes it a point to call every day. Even if it is late at night, he will call and ask about the kids. If they are awake, he will speak to them, if not he will ask them to call in the morning.

IMAGE: Priyank Kharge with his father, Mallikarjun Kharge. Photograph: Priyank Kharge/Twitter

He overcame the barriers of caste, language and resource

I admire the way he built his way up in politics.

He has overcome the barriers of caste, language and resource to reach where he has.

He missed the chance of being chief ministership of Karnataka thrice, it would have been easy for him to rebel and leave the party, but he did not. He never compromised on social justice or his ideology or played the rebel or switched sides.

He stayed on, worked hard and today is the President of the Congress party.

It is a great achievement for a party member to rise from being block president to Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President and now All India Congress Committee President -- it is a huge leap.

It is a big honour and privilege to lead the oldest party in India at this difficult juncture. It was a contested battle and he was elected. The euphoria of victory was for a few hours, but now everybody has started working because it is a huge responsibility.

He has an enormous responsibility and people's expectations are huge. The slogan for his election was 'Karyakarta ka Congress and karyakarta ka Kharge [The cadre is the Congress and Kharage is for the cadre]'.

There are expectations not only from the leaders, but from workers of the party.

He values the teachings of Buddha, Dr Ambedkar and the Constitution. He is uncompromisable.

IMAGE: Priyank with his parents, Radhabai and Mallikarjun Kharge. Photograph: Priyank Kharge/Twitter

You fail you learn; the quicker you learn the better it is

The family has continued to maintain close contact with our native place. My mother goes every weekend. They have helped us in reaching where we are and we owe them a moral responsibility. They have been kind to us and whether we are in power or not, we will work for them.

He does not advise me on politics. He says it is not something that can be taught and that you have to be with the people -- you fail, you learn, and the quicker you learn the better it is.

1

I have fought three elections and he has never told me what to do.

It will be a misconception to think that my father's presidency will bring the spotlight on me. My role is going to be limited to the Karnataka elections, and will be decided by the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president and the Congress legislature party. I will do whatever they assign to me.'

Priyank Kharge is an MLA from Chittapur, Karnataka, and a former state minister for IT, Tourism and Social Welfare.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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