Placing Hindutva on the front burner for the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP Wednesday announced the candidature of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, a key accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, from Bhopal against Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh.
Facing trial for her alleged role in the blast that left six dead and 101 injured, Thakur is currently out on bail. She has been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for conspiring and abetting a terror act, and also faces charges ranging from murder to criminal conspiracy.
A Hindu hardliner, she has been fielded against Singh who the BJP calls a Hindu-baiter. This sets the stage for a highly polarising battle in Bhopal.
In first remarks as the party candidate, Thakur called the contest a “dharma yudh” and accused her Congress rival of equating saffron with terror. “Mei bhagwa ko samman dila ke rahungi (I will ensure saffron’s dignity is restored),” she said, adding “all conspiracies against me have failed”.
Explained | Exit Ayodhya architects, enter new-age Hindutva
She had staked claim to the Bhopal seat the day Singh’s name was announced as the Congress candidate. From that very day, she had been talking in terms of taking on Singh, calling it a battle between “dharma” and “adharma”. She began pushing her case though local BJP leaders, including sitting MP Alok Sanjar, asked the party not to field an outsider.
Her candidature was announced hours after she formally joined the BJP. Party sources said she was promised the party ticket a day earlier. The BJP, sources said, turned to her after it failed to persuade former Chief Ministers Uma Bharati and Shivraj Singh Chouhan to contest from Bhopal, considered a safe party seat. Click here for more election news
Local dynamics changed somewhat after the assembly elections last year in which three Congress legislators, including two Muslims, were elected from Bhopal.
Both Bharati and Chouhan publicly stated, more than once, that they were not willing to enter the fray. Bharati even issued a statement, saying she had made her contribution in 2003 when she ousted the Digvijaya Singh government by a three-fourth majority.
Explained | The case against Sadhvi Pragya
Although Bhopal will vote May 12, Singh’s candidature was announced by the Congress more than three weeks ago. He was said to be not very keen but accepted the Bhopal challenge after Chief Minister Kamal Nath asked him to contest.