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After SDPI says it had ‘understanding’ with Congress in Karnataka, BJP goes on offensive

The comment by Social Democratic Party of India, PFI's political arm, revives a war between the 2 parties which have accused each other of colluding with SDPI to split minority votes.

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Bengaluru: Elyas Muhammad Thumbe, national general secretary of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) — political arm of the banned Islamist organisation Popular Front of India (PFI) — said Thursday that it had an “understanding” with the Congress during the 2018 assembly elections in the state.

Following this statement, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has targeted the Congress, its principal Opposition in Karnataka, for its links with the controversial outfit.

“We have said that the Popular Front of India, KFD (Karnataka Forum for Dignity) and SDPI make up the other face of the Congress,” BJP’s Shobha Karandlaje, Union minister of state for agriculture and farmers’ welfare, said Friday to media persons in Bengaluru. Karandlaje is also convenor of the state election management committee.

“We have always said the PFI and KFD are involved in anti-national activities in Karnataka and other parts of the country. In Karnataka, when Siddaramaiah was in power, there were murders of Hindu youth, but Siddaramaiah did not express any sorrow nor investigate these cases seriously,” she said.

She alleged that the Congress leader had instead tried to appease members of “that community” and continued with the celebrations of Tipu Sultan Jayanthi. This, she claimed, “was a move to pit Muslims against Hindus”.

Speaking to media persons Thursday in Bantwal taluk of the state’s Dakshina Kannada district, Thumbe said: “Five years ago, we decided to not contest despite having announced that we will contest in some places and had even started campaigning. This was because at the last moment some Muslim leaders and several big leaders from the Congress, whom I shall not name, came and personally requested us (to not contest) …to stop the BJP from coming to power.”

Thumbe added that the SDPI had announced candidates in at least 25 constituencies in 2018, but pulled out as the outfit lacked “political maturity”.

Speaking to Times Now Friday, Rizwan Arshad, Congress legislator from Shivajinagar in Bengaluru, denied any “alliance” with SDPI. “What do you mean by an alliance? An alliance means you fight together, you withdraw your candidates where your allies will contest. Show me even one seat where this happened in 2018,” he said.

According to Arshad, defeating the BJP — which he described as a “fundamentalist and communal organisation” — was, in principle, the stand of the Congress.

In January this year, the SDPI announced its decision to contest in about 100 seats out of the total 224 in the upcoming Karnataka assembly election.

Also read: Despite ban, Popular Front of India still disseminates ‘divisive narratives’ via VPNs: UK AI firm

Congress vs BJP

Over the years, the Congress and the BJP have taken turns to accuse each other of colluding with the SDPI to split minority votes and gain an unfair advantage over the other.

In 2021, the BJP accused the SDPI of creating unrest in the state as well as targeting Hindus in Karnataka, especially the communally-sensitive coastal belt.

In the 2013 assembly election, the SDPI contested 23 seats and secured 3.27 per cent vote share.

In 2018, the party pulled out of most seats it had previously announced it would contest but still managed to secure 10.50 per cent votes in the three seats that it did eventually fight on. The party secured 45,781 votes in the three constituencies it fought in and accounted for 0.12 per cent of the total vote share in that election.

This was against the 98,249 votes or 0.31 per cent share it secured in 2013.

Although it hasn’t won a single seat in assembly elections, the SDPI won six seats in the 2021 local body polls in Karnataka.

In 2018, Congress managed to win just three out of the 21 seats in the coastal region, down from 13 in 2013.

In mid-2022, a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Mangaluru had made allegations against the BJP for funding the SDPI. “It is very sad that to defeat the Congress politically and become more powerful themselves, a party that has come to power with the support of Hindutva (the BJP) is strengthening the SDPI by giving them money and funding its candidates,” Satyajit Surathkal, a former RSS & BJP office bearer, had said during an interview to Mangaluru-based Daijiworld.

Also read: Proud Muslims or radical Islamists? Why PFI is linked to everything from hijab row to terror plots


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