The Congress is not much worried about the active presence of Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) in the communally polarised Dakshina Kannada region ahead of the May 10 assembly elections in Karnataka, former minister and Mangaluru MLA U T Khader said.
In an interview to PTI, he said, ”I don’t see SDPI as a threat to our vote bank. People are not going to support their communal agenda.”
Khader said people in the region are more concerned about issues like poverty, unemployment and protection of their basic rights. Only the Congress addresses these issues in the election campaign.
“Congress is there for everyone and strives to uphold the constitutional rights of citizens and fights to protect them. Voters will ultimately realise that.” On the hijab issue which rocked the region last year, Khader, who was then blamed for his ambivalent stand, said he always believed that the laws of the land should be followed.
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“Some parties made it a communal issue for their own gains.”
The matter is now before the court and a decision in favour of students is expected, he said, adding education to the girls in the community is most important.
“When we try to protect the Constitution, the rights of minorities will also be protected. The electorate will vote for a secular government in the state,” he said. Asked whether SDPI, the political arm of the banned Popular Front of India (PFI), will eat into the Congress vote bank, he said they have only limited influence in Dakshina Kannada. On the threat of division in minority votes which can help the BJP in the elections, he said, “obviously, one communal party will only help another communal party in the elections.”
“The BJP is on its deathbed in the state. It is now the duty of SDPI to save them,” he said. “We are opposing the communal policies of both the parties.” The Congress leader further said the SDPI’s two-three percent votes in the region cannot make an impact in the elections. “The Congress had won when they contested against us and we know the people are with us.”
Congress is focusing on the failures of the BJP government which is steeped in corruption, he said expressing hope that the party will considerably improve performance in the twin districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi. In the last elections, Khader was the only Congress candidate to win from the region.
BJP had won 12 out of the 13 seats in the two districts. He said the Congress is working unitedly for victory. On former MLA Mohiuddin Bava deserting the party and contesting on a Janata Dal (S) ticket from Mangaluru North, he said the decision will only damage his political career. “Political leaders need to learn patience. The party cannot always favour a leader and they have to take it in their stride.”
Khader said the description of the coastal region as the laboratory of Hindutva politics is not always correct. People have chosen different parties in successive elections. He recalled that in 2008, out of the eight seats in Dakshina Kannada, the BJP and Congress won in four seats each. In 2013, Congress won seven seats and BJP won only in Sullia.
In 2018, Congress lost due to certain undercurrents. “A strong anti-incumbency wave is now visible in the state due to their divisive politics and people have learnt that Congress should come to power to maintain peace and harmony,” he said.
On the CM Basavaraj Bommai-headed government taking away four percent quota for Muslims and placing them in the economically weaker sections category, Khader said it is not right to withdraw the existing quota of a community. The decision reflects the BJP’s continuing attempts to polarise the society and gain political advantage, he said. Khader is contesting for the fifth consecutive time from the Mangaluru (erstwhile Ullal) constituency and had won all the four elections he faced.