Republican Party of India (RPI) president and NDA ally Ramdas Athawale on Sunday criticised the BJP’s decision to field Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal parliamentary seat.
“Her name had figured in the Malegaon case and Hemant Karkare (former Maharashtra ATS chief) had enough evidence against her,” the Union minister said here when asked about Thakur’s candidature. He also criticised Thakur’s remarks, which she later retracted, that Karkare had died due to her “curse”.
The RPI has fielded candidates from Jabalpur, Satna, Ratlam, Morena and Sidhi in Madhya Pradesh. Athawale said they would support BJP candidates in the remaining 24 seats. Speaking to reporters here, Athawale said, “Karkare was martyred while fighting terrorists to save people. I do not agree with Sadhvi’s statement on Karkare. We condemn it. It is for the court to decide what is right and what is wrong… If left to our party, we would not have fielded her.”
Separately, asked about Thakur while campaigning in Panna on Sunday, Union minister and senior BJP leader Uma Bharati said there was nothing wrong in giving a ticket to her and that Congress president Rahul Gandhi was also out on bail in a case. She also said she could in no way match up to Thakur, a “mahamandaleshwar”, heading a peeth.
On Saturday too, speaking in Katni, Bharati had emphasised that Thakur was “a great saint”. Asked if Thakur would replace her in Madhya Pradesh, as the BJP’s ‘sadhu-politician’ in the state, the former chief minister said, “Woh mahaan sant hain. Unse meri kya tulna? Main to ek saadharan aur moorkh kisma ka prani hoon (Thakur is a great saint. How can I compare to her? I am an ordinary, foolish kind of creature).”
In response, Thakur said she had always respected Bharati and got affection from her. The comparison between the two is inevitable. Thakur herself draws attention to this in her campaign, saying that while in 2003 one “saint” (Bharati) had sent Digvijaya packing for 16 years, now it was her turn to “destroy” him.
Bharati incidentally had refused to contest from Bhopal against Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, saying even an ordinary BJP worker would defeat him. She had named sitting MP Alok Sanjar, MLA Vishwas Sarang, Alok Sharma and other local leaders as capable of defeating Digvijaya, but not Thakur.
While criticising Thakur’s candidature, Athawale said the NDA would win more than 350 seats across the country and Narendra Modi would be Prime Minister again.