Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur is BJP's face in Bhopal
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday told a Gujarat rally about a “nuclear of nuclear bombs”, suggesting India had foiled Pakistan’s nuclear blackmail with the mother of all nuclear bombs — an allusion to the surgical and air strikes.
Soon, a mother of all electoral bombs was test-fired 700km away with the launch of terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur as the BJP candidate from the prestigious Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency.
Pragya, who uses the honorific “Sadhvi” and wears saffron robes, is a prime accused in the Malegaon blast that killed six people and left 100 injured in 2008. She will take on Congress heavyweight and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh.
“Dharma will triumph over Adharma,” she said on Wednesday.
Out on bail, Pragya is facing trial under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, an anti-terror law, in the blast case.
Mehbooba Mufti, People’s Democratic Party leader and a former BJP ally, responded to the choice with this tweet: “Imagine the anger if I’d field a terror accused. Channels would’ve gone berserk by now trending a mehboobaterrorist hashtag!”
Pragya’s candidature was announced hours after she joined the BJP, which has made fighting terror a key election issue.
Sources said her name was pushed by party chief Amit Shah, who believes it would lead to a polarisation of votes that would help the BJP. Bhopal is a BJP stronghold — the party had held the constituency since 1989 — but Digvijaya’s entry has meant it will be a tough fight.
The choice of the 48-year-old comes at a time Modi and Shah have accused the Congress of coining the “Hindu terror” phrase. At a rally in Odisha, Shah on Wednesday described Digvijaya as the “creator” of the “saffron terror” phrase.
The trial court had in October last year framed charges against Pragya and other accused under the UAPA and other sections of the Indian Penal Code for murder, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity between religious groups. If convicted, the maximum punishment would be life imprisonment or death.
Pragya and the others facing trial in the case are charged with “hatching a conspiracy” to “strike terror in the mind of the Muslim community, to create communal rift….”
The BJP made it clear it would play the aggressive Hindutva card, with Shah saying that the party had taken the question of “saffron terror” to the people’s court with Pragya’s candidature.
Pragya said: “He (Digvijaya) has sown the seeds of defamation of our Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism) and saffron. He termed saffron and Hindutva as terrorism…. I will ensure that saffron gets its due respect.”
Referring to her incarceration in the Malegaon case, she alleged that she was disrespected and tortured. “I will bring before the world how they tortured me,” Pragya said.
She took the plunge on a day Modi told a rally in Surendranagar in Gujarat: “Earlier, terrorists from Pakistan would come here and go back after conducting an attack. Pakistan would threaten us, saying it has the nuclear bomb and will press the button (if India retaliated). We have nuclear of nuclear bombs (the mother of nuclear bombs). I decided to tell them, do whatever you want to do (but we will retaliate),” the Prime Minister said.
Digvijaya took to Twitter to welcome her: “I welcome Sadhvi Pragyaji in Bhopal and hope that the picturesque city’s peaceful, educated and dignified environ would attract you.”