Mangaluru: The success of the SDPI in the recent urban local body (ULB) elections is worrying Congress leaders, who see it as a growing rival in future local body elections. Although the Congress did not take the outfit seriously to begin with, being confident of its vote bank, it is beginning to see it as a threat after the ULB elections. The SDPI, which contested only 26 seats, 12 in Bantwal Municipality, 10 in Ullal and four in Puttur, won 11.
Political leaders feel that the SDPI's success in the ULB election is not an overnight phenomenon as it has over the years gained popularity due to the active efforts of its organisations like the Campus Front of India (CFI), women's wing and the PFI.
“The first target of the SDPI is the Congress. It is winning in constituencies where the Congress has won in the past by trying to appear as a champion of the Muslims. It fights for every little cause and its workers work at the grassroots. It could definitely emerge as a threat to the Congress in the not so distant future,” said a Congress leader, warning that if the party did not wake up from its deep slumber, it could find itself pushed to third place in future elections.
Noting that the SDPI has increased its hold over Ullal and Bantwal since the last election, he says it is gaining in strength in other parts of the coast too. “ Once the SDPI becomes a force in the panchayats and ULBs, it will try to aim for the assembly elections too," the Congress leader added. Political experts agree that the SDPI is gaining in the region. “It is focusing on areas with a strong Muslim population , projecting itself as an alternative to the major parties,” said Prof. P.L. Dharma of Mangaluru University.