The Congress' big win in the Karnataka assembly polls has come as a boost for Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge as it is also the first time in nearly four decades that the party has won in the home state of its president.
The Congress would also take inspiration from history as it was from Karnataka that an embattled Indira Gandhi had revived her dwindling political future by winning a Lok Sabha bypoll from Chikmagalur.
The Congress is facing a stiff electoral challenge from a rampaging BJP and the Karnataka poll win has come at a critical juncture for the grand old party with the Lok Sabha polls next year, but whether this victory would prove to be its "Chikmagalur moment", only time will tell.
"It is an extraordinary result for the Congress party in Chikmagalur district which had become a BJP bastion of late. It won all 5 of the 5 seats there. In 1978, Chikmagalur heralded the revival of @INCIndia nationally by electing Indira Gandhi. History will soon repeat itself!" Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said in a tweet.
For Kharge, who was elected Congress president last October, this election in his home state of Karnataka was being seen by many as a litmus test as it was the first major electoral challenge the party faced under his stewardship. Though the party had also gone to polls in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat with Kharge at the helm but those elections came soon after he assumed office and he had little time to strategise and leave his mark on them.
Kharge led the party's charge in the Karnataka polls along with Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and made fervent appeals to the electorate citing that Karnataka was his home turf.
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Making an emotional appeal to voters on the last day of campaigning, Kharge had asked them to take pride in the fact that he as a "bhoomi putra" of Karnataka had been made the Congress president and sought a win for the party.
Prior to Kharge, the Congress got a victory in the home state of a party chief way back in the 1985 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh when Rajiv Gandhi was at the helm following Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984. At that time the Congress had got 269 seats in the 425-member assembly. The Congress had lost the polls in UP in 1989.
In the first half of the 1990s, after Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated and PV Narasimha Rao took over as the president of the Congress, the party was defeated in the 1994 assembly elections in his home state of Andhra Pradesh.
Rao was succeeded by Sitaram Kesri, who hailed from Bihar. In his tenure as party chief from 1996 to 1998, no assembly elections were held in his home state.
Sonia Gandhi became the Congress President in 1998 and by that time the Congress had been weakened in Uttar Pradesh considerably and did not win any assembly elections in the state. The Congress could not leave a significant mark in the assembly elections of 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017 in Uttar Pradesh when she was the president.
In her second term as president, the performance of the Congress in 2022 was also disappointing. During Rahul Gandhi's tenure as party chief, there was no election in Uttar Pradesh.
Though the Congress' campaign initially centred around its state leaders like Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar, Kharge gave it a momentum and thereby prepared the pitch for the party's top leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi to join in.
In the last 50 years, Kharge is only the second leader after Jagjivan Ram to be the Congress president from the Dalit community. The win in Karnataka is a major boost for his image.
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