Members from minority communities are keen on joining the SDPI party.
The media attention given to the Social Democratic Party of India(SDPI) has increased following the recent ban of the Popular Front of India(PFI). This is, in turn, attracting new members to the party.
In Chitradurga district in North Karnataka, 150 Dalits have joined the party. In Bijapur district, more Dalits and Adivasis have joined after the ban. The new members are predominantly men. Riyaz, Media Manager for the SDPI said that people have been calling the number on their website with the intention of joining the party. “The new members are from North Karnataka districts of Hubballi, Kalaburagi and Bidar,” Riyaz said.
Ashraf Machar, State Secretary, SDPI said that SDPI in Karnataka had close to three lakh cadres. However, there is no exact figure of the total members as the party does not maintain a registry of members.
According to Machar, many people are now observing the work done by the party. “Before, we had to spend money on advertising. Now, due to the media attention on us, we do not have the need for advertising,” he said. The increase in membership is not only due to the publicity generated after the ban, Machar said. “It has been a gradual growth over the years. The people are witnessing the efforts we are making at a grass-root level and want to join us. But yes, there has been a renewed interest in the party after PFI’s ban.”
Machar added that the current Karnataka government was trying to make false allegations that members of PFI are joining SDPI and are trying to regroup under SDPI. He said, “SDPI has no links with the PFI. We are two separate entities. There is no regrouping; this is just a way to malign and control us.”
Azhar Khan, Thanisandra ward member for the last six months said, “I decided to join the party after I saw the help provided by the party during COVID-19 time. I like the fact that they stand for the rights of minorities.” He also said that the people are noticing the various relief measures and outreach programmes that SDPI is undertaking and therefore want to join the party.
The party believes that the new members will increase its voter base and help in the upcoming assembly elections in Karnataka. SDPI plans on contesting 100 seats for the assembly elections. “We want to see five of four of our MLAs inside the Vidhana Soudha,” added Machar.
The strengthening of the SDPI voter base may become a challenge for the Karnataka Congress, as the party may lose out on minority votes. Anand Prasad, State General Secretary, Social and Communications Department, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, said they don’t consider the SDPI as competition. “This is a game-plan by the BJP to divide votes. Muslims themselves feel that they need a strong political support base, as they want to defeat the BJP. Hence, they will not get swayed and will vote for the Congress as they are aware of the efforts made by us, due to campaigns like Bharat Jodo Yatra.” He further said that it is also the responsibility of the Congress to take them into confidence.
Asaduddin Owaisi, founder of the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) party, was in Bijapur to campaign for the upcoming municipal corporation elections. The party also plans on contesting in the assembly elections. “Mr. Owaisi has received a great reception in Karnataka. I do not believe that votes will get divided between our party and the SDPI. We too have the liberty to contest in elections. We have also been getting new members to join our party in Karnataka from 2012,” said a spokesperson for AIMIM Karnataka.
A professor of political science, who wanted to maintain anonymity, said that the percentage of minority votes in Karnataka is too low to make or break an election. “The percentage of minority vote share in Karnataka is 12 to 13 percent. This is just a politically motivated ruse by the BJP and has been blown out of proportion. The SDPI cannot have a political voice without joining an alliance. I feel they are claiming beyond what it really is.”