Book sheds light on Mallikarjun Kharge’s visionary policies, says Sukhadeo Thorat
In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Dr Sukhadeo Thorat, the editor of the biography– Mallikarjun Kharge: Political Engagement with Compassion, Justice, and Inclusive Development,’ published by Rawat Publications, Jaipur, we explored the intricacies of the book’s inspiration
An upcoming special volume titled – ‘Mallikarjun Kharge: Political Engagement with Compassion, Justice, and Inclusive Development,’ edited by Sukhadeo Thorat and Chetan Shinde, is slated for launch by Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi, this Wednesday.
In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Dr Sukhadeo Thorat, the editor of the biography– Mallikarjun Kharge: Political Engagement with Compassion, Justice, and Inclusive Development,’ published by Rawat Publications, Jaipur, we explored the intricacies of the book’s inspiration and the perspectives it unveils about Mallikarjun Kharge’s political journey.
Question: What inspired the compilation of this biography on Mallikarjun Kharge?
Answer: The political odyssey of Mallikarjun Kharge is nothing short of exceptional. Elected an unprecedented nine times as an MLA in Karnataka between 1972 and 2009, of which 17 years as a minister, holding several portfolios and a two-time member of Parliament from 2009 to 2019, and a Rajya Sabha member since then, his story stands out, particularly given his background of poverty and caste discrimination. Like Ambedkar, he was denied a course in the Sanskrit language. The enduring faith placed in him by the people of Gulbarga for nearly half a century compelled me to delve into his political and social narrative.
Question: What unique perspective does this biography offer about Kharge’s political journey?
Answer: This biography unveils lesser-known facets of Kharge’s persona as a political luminary, social reformer, and educator over five decades. It meticulously covers his family background, contributions to Karnataka’s economic development, and his commendable role as an opposition leader. But most unique is his role as a social reformer to reform the iniquitous caste society towards the goal of equality, freedom, and fraternity, including education for marginalized groups through the Education Society with 18 education institutions. Notably, it delves into his profound role as a social reformer, drawing inspiration from Ambedkar and Buddhist ideology for socially inclusive development.
Question: How did you curate contributions from such a diverse array of political figures?
Answer: The 73 three contributors include party colleagues, opposition leaders, administrators, academicians, religious figures, and even some of his childhood contemporaries, who have witnessed his upbringing. Their narratives, akin to eyewitness accounts, are rich with facts and experiences. Most important is that there were a sizable number of writers on each of the themes or spheres.
I saw a common thread running through the contributions linking them all together. The articles and messages were written one and a half years before he was elected as Congress party chief, and nobody visualized this.
An exception was Abhishek Singhvi– senior advocate and Congress MP, who predicted, and I quote: “Mallikarjun Kharge has conquered diverse peaks, but the best is yet to come”. Thus, although diverse, the contributions provide deep insights into Kharge’s politics, social activism, and personal life, and to that extent, the biographical account is genius and grounded.”
Question: Can you highlight any particularly insightful or surprising contributions within the biography?
Answer: Insightful contributions within the biography shed light on Kharge’s visionary policies. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was ahead of his time with policies for education, cooperative credit, and land distribution. We followed inclusively pro-poor, non-discriminatory and disadvantage-reducing policies for discriminated communities and also for labour in the 11th and 12th plans (2006-2017). However, Kharge used it in the early 1970s and 1980s with respect to education, cooperative credit, and land distribution.
The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana – an unprecedented cashless and paperless health insurance scheme introduced by him as the then Karnataka labour minister – was lauded by the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation, and policy for Transport by the International Association of Public Transport, and also adopted by other states. Most remarkable was the innovative policy for the backward region of six districts of Kalyan Karnataka through a constitutional amendment with the insertion of Article 371(J) in 2013.”
Question: Were there any surprising or unexpected narratives shared by these contributors regarding Kharge’s political career?
Answer: Indeed, surprising revelations include Kharge’s adept use of Ambedkar’s pragmatism. Kharge not only built one of the largest Buddhist Vihars but also established institutes for Pali, Sanskrit, and comparative religion, showcasing his commitment to disseminating knowledge. Besides, he set up the Institute of Pali, Sanskrit, and Comparative Religion to spread knowledge. Also, he set up the Karnataka People’s Education Society on the pattern set up by Ambedkar in 1945 which runs 18 institutions and named all of them after the Buddhists and Ambedkar. All of this further exemplifies Kharge’s dedication to the principles of equality and freedom.
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