New Congress president has years of electoral experience

India's Congress party leader Mallikarjun Kharge won nine consecutive elections to the Karnataka state assembly between 1972 and 2008. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - Mr Mallikarjun Kharge, the new president of India’s Congress party, has an impressive electoral record, winning 11 of the 12 elections he has contested, in a political career spanning five decades.

The 80-year-old won nine consecutive elections to the Karnataka state assembly between 1972 and 2008, and has twice won the parliamentary seat of Gulbarga in Karnataka in 2009 and 2014.

He lost in the 2019 general election amid a Congress rout by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.

Born in 1942 in the Bidar district of Karnataka, Mr Kharge is the son of a mill worker and belongs to the Dalit community, which often faces caste discrimination.

Mr Kharge, who is Buddhist, graduated with an arts degree, and went on to practise law. As a labour lawyer, he represented labour unions in his early days.

Keenly interested in politics, he became a labour union leader before being discovered by Mr Devaraj Urs, who was the Congress party chief in Karnataka at the time.

Mr Kharge, who speaks Urdu, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and English, joined Congress in 1969 and won his first assembly election in 1972 for the Gurmitkal constituency in Karnataka. He won the seat eight straight times and went on to win once for the Chitapur constituency.

A former federal railway and labour minister, he was also leader of the opposition in the Upper House of Parliament. He resigned from the post in early October.

The octogenarian is seen as an able administrator and troubleshooter, qualities that are expected to help him in his role as Congress president to reach out to disgruntled elements within the party. 

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