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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Islamist outfit SDPI, a Left-Congress ally in past, fields man accused of murdering Praveen Nettaru in K’taka elections

The move by the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) to field Ismail Shafi Bellare, accused in the murder of BJP Yuva Morcha leader Praveen Kumar Nettaru, and and Riyaz Farangipet as its candidates in the communally-sensitive Dakshina Kannada district has become a topic of discussion in Karnataka ahead of the May 10 Assembly elections.

Nettaru (32) was hacked to death by bike-borne assailants on the night of July 26 last year at Bellare in Dakshina Kannada district.

SDPI is fielding 19 candidates for the upcoming Assembly elections. Dubbed as a party of minorities, SDPI hopes to win four to five seats and make entry into the Karnataka legislature. According to sources, SDPI is likely to give a tough fight to former minister and senior Congress leader U.T. Khader in the Mangaluru (Ullal) Assembly constituency.

The party emphasises on ‘agitative politics’.

Talking to IANS, SDPI’s national secretary Riyaz Farangipet said that his party is not just active during elections, but throughout the year it represents the people on one issue or the other across India.

“Despite not being in power, SDPI ensures that the schemes of the government reaches the poor,” he said.

Other political parties which have opened online help centres are charging money for their services, but SDPI is doing it for free, he said.

“We are not power hungry. We want to be part of power. That is why we are focusing only on those constituencies where we can win,” said Farangipet, who is contesting from the Mangaluru (Ullal) Assembly constituency.

Ismail Shafi Bellare, who’s presently lodged in jail in connection with Nettaru’s murder, is contesting from the Puttur Assembly seat. The decision of the SDPI to field a candidate accused of murder has made national headlines. Even Farangipet has faced sedition charges and his movements are being closely watched by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

According to sources, the SDPI has fielded a formidable candidate in the form of Farangipet to wrest the Mangaluru seat from the Congress. The constituency is considered as a Congress bastion.

Farangipet was accused of hatching a conspiracy to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Phulwari Sharif area in Bihar on July 12, 2022. A probe reportedly revealed his links with the accused persons. Even the NIA had filed an FIR against Farangipet, who allegededly took part in meetings with the accused persons.

There are also other cases lodged against him in Belthangady, Mangaluru South, Konaje, and Mangaluru North in Dakshina Kannada district. He is facing charges of creating enmity between groups, and obstructing the duty of policemen.

Farangipet had taken out a huge rally to file his nomination for the Mangaluru constituency. Sources said that the SDPI is aggressively campaigning against Congress candidate Khader in the wake of the hijab controversy and the boycott call on Muslim traders.

Khader has won from this constituency three times since 2008 by defeating BJP candidates. In 2018, Khader defeated Santhosh Kumar Rai Boliyaru of the BJP by more than 19,000 votes. The BJP had won this seat three consecutive times between 1994 and 2004.

Khader, known as a progressive leader, is facing stiff competition from the SDPI this time in the Muslim-dominated constituency. It was the only constituency that the Congress won in Dakshina Kannada district in 2018, as all the other seats were swept by the BJP.

Reacting to the sedition charges against him, Farangipet said, “Cases are always lodged against people who take up big agitations. We can see IPS officer Sanjeev Bhat being jailed. Our Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers have gone to jail. I will fight the cases lodged against me in the court.”

When asked about Nettare murder accused Shafi Bellare, he said that his arrest was pre-planned.

Bellare and his brother Iqbal Bellare have been arrested due to the pressure put by the Sangh Parivar, he claimed.

“We will question his arrest in the court,” Farangipet said.

Bellare was chosen as an SDPI candidate at the screening committee meeting before Nettare’s murder, but the announcement was pending, Farangipet claimed, adding that contesting elections from prison is not new in India.

“SDPI has created its own vote bank. If Bellare is elected, he will be the voice of the exploited and downtrodden, otherwise he will continue with his social work,” Farangipet said.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline.)

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