SDPI offers support for Lok Sabha polls in Kerala. But here’s why Congress is caught in quandary

Kochi: On All Fools’ Day, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) state president Muvattupuzha Ashraf Moulavi addressed a press conference and offered its support to the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala for the Lok Sabha election.

The SDPI, the political arm of the proscribed Popular Front of India (PFI), is essentially of the same stock.

Moulavi stated Monday that the SDPI would not contest any parliamentary seat in Kerala, and would instead support the Congress as the de facto leader of the INDIA bloc.

He clarified that no discussions were carried out with the Congress towards this
end and added that the support extended was voluntary.

Moulavi also suggested that the ball was now in the Congress court. This has left the Congress in a quandary, with both the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asking the party to come clean on it.

The SDPI strategy in Kerala is in contravention to its decision to contest seats against the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led INDIA bloc in Tamil Nadu where its candidate supported by the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is contesting from Dindigul.

SDPI leaders suggested that it was an exception — for the contest in Dindigul offered the party a chance to open its account in the Lok Sabha.

UDF convener M.M. Hassan reacted cautiously and suggested that nobody would say no to any party voluntarily offering support, and added that the party would discuss it internally.

Congress campaign committee chief Ramesh Chennithala refused to reject the SDPI support, stating it was individuals who voted in an election rather than the party. Pressed further, Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan — at a separate press conference in Pathanamthitta — stated that the Congress did not seek alliance from “extreme elements” although he did not outrightly reject the SDPI offer.


The SDPI’s announcement has come as a surprise to many as it had carried out a state-wide rally named ‘Jana Munnetta Yatra’ led by Moulavi in the latter part of February.

At public interactions during and after the rally, the SDPI had given no indication of employing such a strategy. In fact, the Iftar hosted by the SDPI in Kozhikode on 20 March was attended by the Congress and CPI(M) candidates, M.K. Raghavan and Elamaram Kareem, along with veteran Left leaders such as K.T. Kunhikannan.

The development is likely to be milked by the CPI(M) and the BJP in Central Travancore where the SDPI’s support is not likely to sit well with the UDF’s Christian support base, unless the Congress decides to reject the support offered by the party, which is deemed unlikely.

A Congress veteran told ThePrint that the SDPI offer was “a well-laid trap” for the party. “If we reject the offer, the SDPI will take offence and might back the Left instead, and that too, without announcing it publicly, which is a win-win situation for the CPI(M),” the leader explained.

Also Read: Foes in Kerala, friends outside — how contradictions in Congress-Left equation are playing out in state 

Conspiracy theories

K.P. Noushad Ali, Congress leader from Malabar, had a different take on it altogether. He claimed that the UDF being ahead on all surveys might have prompted the SDPI to offer its support, likening it to the psychology of voting for the winning candidate, and the SDPI’s political utility of claiming credit for the UDF victory later.

Veteran journalist N.P. Chekkutty, who had also served as the editor of Thejas, the now-defunct PFI mouthpiece, suggested that the SDPI ploy could be seen as extending an olive branch to the Congress in case the INDIA bloc comes to power in 2024, so that it can derive some advantage in its run-ins with the law enforcement agencies.

The timing of the SDPI’s offer of support has also evoked curiosity. Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan had been trying to use the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) for vote bank by holding rallies in Muslim-dominated constituencies. 

However, the SDPI recently blamed the Left government for the acquittal of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) cadres in the Riyas Moulavi murder case, and this could be seen as the trigger.

A Left fellow-traveler-turned-Congress sympathiser saw a “CPI(M) hand” in the SDPI offer, as the public offer of support is a double-edged sword for the Congress. “Whenever the SDPI supported the Left, it never announced it publicly. The SDPI had a tactical alliance with the Left in the 2020 local body elections and the assembly elections that followed. But did the Kerala press write about it?” 

The SDPI had more than doubled its local body seats in Kerala from 40-odd in 2015 to 100-plus in 2020 and this is attributed to its tactical alliance with the Left. In fact, even as this unholy ‘deal’ was seemingly on, the CPI(M) had distracted the press by coming up with the narrative that the Congress abdicated to the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, thereby deriving some advantage in the Central Travancore region.

Congress dilemma

While a section of Congress leaders wants to see it out believing this will become a non-issue later, another section is uncomfortable with the proposition as the CPI(M) in Kerala as well as the BJP elsewhere can score electoral brownies.

The SDPI commands a significant number of votes in many Lok Sabha constituencies going by the numbers it polled in 2014. It secured 47,853 votes in Malappuram whereas in Kannur and Vadakara, which are supposed to be close this time around, it polled 19,170 and 15,058 votes.

It polled fewer votes in 2019 under different circumstances, but political experts opine that the party’s strength is reflected more in its 2014 tally. And this is why the Congress finds itself in two minds, as the SDPI votes could make a difference to the fortunes of its candidates in close contests.

A leader of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which is a part of the UDF and doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the SDPI in Kerala politics, had an altogether different take. 

“The SDPI votes fell drastically in 2019 even before the PFI got banned. It failed to raise money through the rally of Moulavi. The SDPI decision is aimed to prevent further embarrassment,” he stated. 

Veteran Congress leader K.C. Joseph offered a rhetorical response speaking to ThePrint. “If someone says they will vote for the UDF, why should we say no? When Pinarayi Vijayan wants to fight elections on the plank of the CAA alone without uttering a word against Modi, this offer of support by the SDPI is actually a snub to the Left,” the former minister said.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

Also Read: How Left is trying to breach IUML-Congress’s Muslim support base in Malabar 



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