The Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday banned the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its associates for five years, but the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which was known as PFI’s political arm, has escaped the ban. An SDPI functionary said they are an independent organisation and not connected to the PFI.
A senior government official said since SDPI is a recognised political party, any action will have to be initiated by the Election Commission of India (ECI). The Ministry of Home Affairs did not respond to calls from The Hindu.
The SDPI was formed on June 21, 2009 in Delhi. It was registered with the ECI on April 13, 2010. In contrast, the PFI and its associate organisations are registered under the Societies of Registration Act, 1860.
Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey did not respond to requests for comment.
As a part of its ongoing drive against parties that had not contested elections for six years, the ECI had de-listed or declared as inactive 537 parties since May. However, the ECI does not have the power to deregister parties under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 - a power it has sought many times by writing to the Law Ministry.
A senior EC official said action would have been taken against SDPI had it been named as an affiliate of PFI, but it wasn’t named as on Wednesday, making it unlikely to face any action at the moment.
Though SDPI has distanced itself from PFI, it issued a statement on Wednesday condemning the ban. The party said in a statement that the “decision of the Union BJP government banning PFI and its associate organisations is a direct blow on democracy and the rights of people enshrined in Indian Constitution”.
SDPI’s national general secretary Elyas Thumbe told The Hindu that the statement was issued as MHA’s action is undemocratic and PFI is an organisation that works for the upliftment and empowerment of minorities. He said SDPI was a “secular organisation as it has members from all communities” and so far the party has not received any query from the ECI or any probe agency.
He said the SDPI has elected members in municipal corporations and gram panchayats in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal.
When asked about the government’s charge that SDPI activists were involved in criminal activities, Mr. Thumbe said, “Terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur is an elected member of Lok Sabha. There are thousands of members in a political party and the party is not responsible for the criminal activities of its members. Around 43% members in Lok Sabha have criminal record, why Congress and BJP are not blamed?”
After the September 22 countrywide raids by the National Investigation Agency and other agencies, including the Karnataka police where 109 members and top leadership of the PFI were arrested, State Home Minister Araga Jnanendra had said it was “the first step towards banning PFI and SDPI.”