22/04/2019 10:04 AM IST

Will Mallikarjun Kharge Win Gulbarga again?

The veteran Congress leader has never lost an election. But reports say this could be his toughest fight yet.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge is hoping for a third straight victory from the Gulbarga Lok Sabha seat in Karnataka on 23 April. But unlike the last two Lok Sabha elections, where he defeated BJP’s Revunaik Belamagi (who left the party last year), reports suggest that this time’s fight will be tougher for the veteran politician, who has been an MLA nine times and an MP twice.

His opponent, Umesh Jadhav, is a Congress rebel who joined the BJP and will be banking on the support of the numerically significant Banjara community, The New Indian Express reported. The report added that many influential Congress politicians who had backed Kharge in the last election have switched sides to the BJP now, making the Dalit leader’s position more uncertain. The BJP has won the Gulbarga seat, a Congress stronghold, only once since 1977.

Kharge, who enjoys the Gandhi family’s trust, has often been sent by the party to deal with messy political situations in different states, including his own Karnataka. The 76-year-old has often been in the running to become the state’s CM, most recently in 2017, but each time, he has lost out to others. His son Priyank Kharge is currently a minister in HD Kumaraswamy’s cabinet.

Kharge, who was the leader of the Congress in the 16th Lok Sabha, had high levels of attendance in each Parliament session since 2014, according to data from PRS India.