The nomination of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur by the BJP as a Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal is an unequivocal signal from the party and its leadership that legal due process doesn’t matter when it comes to furthering politics and ideology. The party’s view is, and this has been underlined by its top leaders day after day in this bare-knuckled election campaign, that there is nothing called terror by hardline Hindu groups, that all was a figment of the UPA’s prejudiced imagination. So it doesn’t matter that the court, in several cases, pulled up the prosecution for not doing its job. It doesn’t matter that Thakur, out on bail, is an accused named by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad which has chargesheeted her for conspiracy and alleged that it was her bike which was used to plant the explosives that killed six in Malegaon in 2008. When the government changed at the Centre, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had a change of stance: Special prosecutor Rohini Salian told this newspaper that she was under pressure to go soft on the accused. A year later, the NIA claimed the evidence against Thakur was insufficient to prove her complicity in the crime and sought to exonerate her. However, a special court in Mumbai last year found that the available evidence was sufficient to prosecute Thakur under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for terror activities, criminal conspiracy and murder. All this, evidently, doesn’t matter to those who chose her for the Bhopal seat.
There is also no escaping the fact that Thakur’s nomination may be some comeuppance for Digvijaya Singh as well. For, he is the one who lent his political weight — significant at that time — to conspiracy theories about the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Even going to the extent of suggesting that the killing of Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare could have something to do with threats he received from Hindu extremists and joining the launch of a book that linked the attack to the RSS. Karkare led a spirited investigation into acts of violence by hardline Hindu groups and Singh did disservice to his role. Zero tolerance for terrorism means zero tolerance for opportunistic politics around it — left or right. For the BJP, therefore, the decision to give Thakur a ticket affirms its approval of a politics that not only celebrates hate speech but also appears to condone hateful action.
Since 2014, there have been questions on the legal process in cases including the Malegaon bomb blasts, terror strikes at Ajmer Sharif and Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad and the 2007 attack on Samjhauta Express. The NIA and the prosecution have failed to secure convictions, there is no tearing hurry to act after the collapse of these cases in trial courts. The BJP has been winning the Bhopal seat since 1989 and Thakur may very well defeat Digvijaya Singh but her nomination corrodes democracy. It underlines the line brazenly used by a string of accused, from all political parties, that their vote count should decide their innocence or guilt — who cares about rule of law or due process.