All eyes on Mallikarjun Kharge: Will the Congress chief be the face of Opposition to take on Modi in 2024?

As we are counting days to mark the beginning of a New Year, we are also witnessing the emergence of a new political equation in Delhi that is being brewed in a way that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lock horns with a new face in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. With the general elections are approaching, all eyes are on Mallikarjun Kharge, the national president of the Congress party and presumably a national opponent to take on Modi. 

81-year-old Kharge is a popular political leader and his elevation as the Congress party president, a first non-Gandhi leader of the party in decades, accelerated his popularity across the nation. Being instrumental in uniting the opposition parties ahead of the polls, Kharge is a key architect in building the opposition coalition - INDIA  (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance), which is getting a shape despite the recent-electoral debacle in the three states of Hindi heartland. 

Recently, when the leaders of INDIA bloc sat for a meeting in Delhi, Kharge's candidacy for the Prime Ministerial post slowly started to emerge. The leaders like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who weren't on the same page with the Congress earlier, had endorsed Kharge's candidacy to take on Modi, who is seeking to win a third consecutive term, a rare phenomenon in the Indian politics. 

Kharge is a tall leader who has been active in politics for five decades and decorated various roles. A native of Karnataka, he won a sea of support when he took over the realm of the Congress party and in his leadership, the party won in the Karnataka and Telangana assembly polls and  reviving its base in South India, though the northern territory remains elusive for the party.

At an event of launching a book, describing Kharge's 50-year journey in electoral politics, that was held recently in Delhi, several Congress leaders and the leaders of allied parties gave strong signs that Kharge will be the prime ministerial candidate of the INDIA coalition. While BJP primarily relies on its upper caste Hindutva voter base, the opposition bloc is planning to reap the support from all other communities and minorities.

It has been reported that during the INDIA bloc meeting in Delhi, Mamata Banerjee suggested that it would be good if a Dalit leader is put as the face of the opposition alliance to take on the Modi regime. Following Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal propped the idea and when the BJP shunned the opposition coalition that the political divide within them would dismantle the alliance, it is said that the opposition leaders have stunned the BJP by coming together to fortify Kharge's candidacy.

Besides being a significant national face, Kharge belongs to Dalit community and has built good fortunes with heartbreaking turns and downfalls in his life. From being a labour reformist, lawyer, to a senior politician, Kharge came close to becoming Karnataka's Chief Minister and lost the race twice. Though Kharge has an equal political uprising as Narendra Modi, he comes up with some negative factors. 

According to our sources, though the opposition alliance hasn't officially declared Kharge as its prime ministerial candidate, it is to be seen that whether such an official declaration would spark adverse implications in the alliance. The other negative factors include his age and his non Hindi-heartland background. It is pertinent to note that South India has sent only one Prime Minister so far - HD Deve Gowda, who was in power briefly between 1996 to 1997.