New Delhi, Jan 13: Does Congress veteran Mallikarjun Kharge face 'Sharad Pawar or Pranab Mukherjee' moment? Is BJP concerned with his unblemished and Dalit status?
Cautious that Congress floor leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge could emerge a major 'player' in the post 2019 general elections, the BJP is planning to field former Karnataka Chief Secretary K Ratnaprabha against him from Kalaburagi or Gulbarga parliamentary constituency.
According to party sources, a short list prepared by the state unit has the name of former top bureaucrat, who was hugely popular often akin to film stars during her stint as a civil servant.
"Ms Ratnaprabha is a popular name in the state known for credible work. The 1981 batch IAS officer had left her mark as an officer, especially during her work in Bidar district. There have been instances that her office subordinates and others have often named their new born babies as Ratna after her," a party leader attending BJP National Convention told UNI here.
Considered a strong Congress bastion, Gulbarga seat had been won by BJP in 1998 when Baswaraj Patil Sedam had humbled Qamarul Islam of Janata Dal. Mr Islam had won the seat in 1996. For his part Mr Kharge has been winning the seat since 2009.
It may be mentioned that prior to 2009, Gulbarga was a general seat and it fell into Congress kitty after the seat was made reserved for Scheduled Caste after delimitation.
Meanwhile, sources say a section of leaders in the Karnataka Congress have already toyed with the idea of 'giving bigger role' to Mr Kharge in the Congress politics after 2019 general elections.
"Mr Kharge, a Dalit face and unblemished, already has Rahul Gandhi's confidence and this was reflected when despite being floor leader, the former Union Minister was made Chairman of Public Accounts Committee replacing another trusted face K V Thomas," a source said.
In a sense, Mr Kharge may get an important position in the 'Congress strategy' after this year's general elections.
"He may be new face in the Congress who will be man to watch. Could he become 'new Manmohan Singh'," a source in Karnataka said.
However, sources also caution there could be 'testing times' too for Mr Kharge as in the past, "ambitious lot" in the Congress party such as past veterans Pranab Mukherjee and Sharad Pawar had to suffer gradual isolation.
According to one school of thought in the Congress party, those who are suggesting 'bigger role' for Mr Kharge are only now trying to harm him.
"He has attained a big position and must be happy about it. To presume, this can grow bigger can only boomerang. Mr Kharge is a keen observer of politics and is thus maintaining his humility. His focus is now to win from the Gulbarga constituency yet again," a source in Karnataka Congress said.
Out of the eight Assembly segments under Gulbarga, two constituencies -- Gulbarga Rural and Chitapur -- are reserved for SC candidates and both are with the Congress at present.
In fact, Mr Kharge's son Priyank Kharge won from Chitarpur and is now Minister of Social Welfare in the Kumaraswamy government.UNI