The intense heat in Gulbarga has not curbed the enthusiasm of Railway Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge, who has been electioneering in the constituency in a bid to become one of the select few politicians who have remained unbeaten in their long careers.
Mr. Kharge has won nine Assembly elections — eight from Gurmitkal and one from Chittapur . He won his first Lok Sabha election from the Gulbarga constituency in 2009. He is the only politician in Karnataka who has remained victorious for 42 years.
The Minister’s day starts with his doting wife, Radhabai Kharge, serving him jowar roti accompanied by vegetarian dishes. On an average, he travels around 300 km to 400 km a day, touching each and every village.
Mr. Kharge, who starts his campaign early in the morning, covers as many villages as possible before the intensity of the heat increases, taking an occasional break by sitting under a tree and sipping cold water. He avoids eating or drinking anything during his campaign, except for lunch at the house of one of his closest supporters. For lunch, he prefers jowar roti and vegetable curry to rice.
On his second day of campaigning, Mr. Kharge drove through the Gurmitkal Assembly segment in Yadgir district, which is part of the Gulbarga Lok Sabha constituency, and all through his drive from one village to another, his vehicle was stopped by enthusiastic people. “It is always a pleasure to come to Gurmitkal and meet people…,” he said. Lakshmamma, a 70-year-old resident of Putpak, a village on the Karnataka–Andhra Pradesh border, recalled that her husband, Munivenkatappa, who died a few years ago, had asked her to vote for Mr. Kharge. “Since then I have been voting for Mr. Kharge as he has been doing some good work…. My village did not have an approach road or drinking water facility a few years back, now Putpak is a small town with all the basic infrastructure,” she said.
One of the discerning features of Mr. Kharge’s speeches is the lack of tall promises. “I don’t believe in [making] any promise during the elections…. I believe in seeking votes for the work I have done during the previous term, and this has always paid rich dividends.”
Late in the night, a tired Mr. Kharge returns to his Gulbarga residence and retires immediately to prepare himself for yet another long haul on the next day.