Making an emotional appeal to voters on his home turf on the last day of campaigning, Congress national president Mallikarjun Kharge on Monday said he was 81 years old and if someone wanted to finish him off, they could, but he would until his last breath continue to fight for the poor and try to protect their interests.
Kharge also urged voters to take pride in the fact that he as a "bhoomi putra" of Karnataka had been made AICC president, and sought a win for the Congress in that name.
Congress had recently alleged that an assassination plot had been hatched to "wipe out" Kharge, his wife and his entire family by a BJP candidate. It had shared an alleged audio recording of the BJP candidate from Chittapur constituency in Kalaburagi district, Manikanta Rathod, in which he is heard purportedly saying in Kannada that he would wipe out "Kharge, his wife and children".
"It seems that it might have come into the minds of BJP leaders to finish me off. If not, who will have the courage to say that he wants to finish off Kharge and family? If he has to say it, some BJP leader should be behind him, or else it will not," Kharge said.
Addressing a public meeting he said, no one could finish him off easily. "I have Babasaheb's Constitution to protect me, the people of Kalaburagi and Karnataka are behind me. Now after becoming AICC president, the people of the country are behind me. You may finish me and my family... If I go, someone else may emerge," he said.
Rathod rejected the charges outright and said, “It is all a lie. They are playing some fake audio. The Congress is leveling baseless allegations fearing defeat".
Further accusing the BJP of going around saying everywhere that they wanted to finish him off as Kharge and his son are speaking against them, the AICC chief said, "Modi is also behaving similarly. Speak about me, why son? He is not to your level. Speak about me it's fine, I've been in politics for 52 years...but why my family?"
Saying that he had lost his entire family once in his childhood and was left alone, he added that he is still alive and will continue to live with the blessings of the people. "...let them do whatever they want, but I'm also strong. A man may live up to a hundred years or 90 years, but in India average life is 70 or 71. I'm already in my bonus period, I'm 81 years now. If I live, I may live for another eight or nine years, no worries. If you want to finish me off before that, finish if your problems will be resolved..
But until I have my last breath, I will continue to fight for the poor and try to protect them. Until you (people) are with me, I have no fear," he added.
Kharge also urged the people of Kalaburagi to ensure that Congress won all seats in the region in "response" to the party making him its national president, suggesting that it was a matter of pride.
Pointing out that because of the blessings of the people of Kalaburagi he was in Parliament and had been in the Assembly, and worked in various capacities including Leader of Opposition, Kharge said though he lost the Lok Sabha polls, Sonia Gandhi had made him a Rajya Sabha member and then Leader of Opposition, and above all he has been made the AICC president. "It is a matter of pride of Gulbarga (Kalaburagi), not mine," he said.
Stating that he may die some day, he said, "But Gulbarga (Kalaburagi) has got the post of Congress national president and saving it is in your hand, bringing respect to it is in your hands. Or else others will say Gulbarga (Kalaburagi) was made president but people there didn't even choose an MLA."
Kharge asked the people to ensure that Congress won all the seats in Kalaburagi and Yadgir districts. "You should make sure Congress wins all 13 seats. Then I will get respect and also to those who made me president, and also to you, as I'm no one without you."
In 52 years, he had brought no bad name to his people, he said. "I have fought against JD(S), BJP, Modi in Parliament, I have fought for justice."
Noting that he had gone to Gujarat for election campaigning, the AICC president said Modi there was urging people to vote for BJP as he was the "bhoomi putra" of Gujarat and Ahmedabad and requested them to save his dignity. In the same way, Kharge said, he himself was seeking votes from his people in Kalaburagi and Karnataka.
"I want to tell Modi now that I'm the 'bhoomi putra' of Karnataka and Gulbarga (Kalaburagi). The right you have in Gujarat, I have here and I should get it. You have done nothing for my place, but I'm asking after working for my region. What have you done to seek votes here?" he asked.