Pushing its aggressive Hindutva agenda, the BJP has decided to field Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh against Congress leader and former chief minister Digvijay Singh.
Pragya Thakur formally joined BJP today (Wednesday, April 17) after a meeting with senior BJP leaders Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Ramlal, and Prabhat Jha in Bhopal, according to news agency ANI.
“I have formally joined the BJP, I will contest elections and will definitely win. It won’t be difficult for me,” Pragya, who has prefixed ‘sadhvi’ to her name, told reporters at the BJP office in Bhopal.
Alok Sanjar, the current BJP parliamentarian from Bhopal, said the party fully backed her and would ensure her victory from the seat. “No allegation was proved against her. A woman was harassed. Now it’s time for revenge,” Sanjar told NDTV.
Pragya, along with Lt Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit, came to represent what the Congress-led UPA government termed as ‘saffron terror’ after they were both charged in the Malegaon blasts. On September 29, 2008, two bombs fitted on a motorcycle exploded, killing seven people and injuring over 100 in Malegaon in Maharashtra, around 270 km from Mumbai. They are both out on bail in the case.
“We all will fight together with all those who are conspiring against the nation and defeat them,” said Pragya, alleging a conspiracy to frame her.
Pragya Thakur, a controversial figure known for incendiary comments and speeches, had been associated with the RSS-affiliated youth outfit Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and ‘Durga Vahini’ or women’s wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
Pragya Thakur is the third of five children – four sisters and a brother. She joined the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in the early nineties.
She moved to Madhya Pradesh as her father was transferred from Jalaun district in Uttar Pradesh to Lahar in Bhind district of the central state in the seventies as an agriculture department employee. Her father again shifted to Surat around 2000 when Pragya was setting out for a post-graduation in history.
She rose to the post of the state organising secretary of ABVP in 1996 and lived in Ujjain for a year before quitting the organisation in 1997. Pragya was associated with many organisations such as Vande Mataram Jan Kalyan Samiti and Rashtrawadi Sena.
In 2005, she led a massive religious procession called ‘Chunari Yatra’ in Dewas, and stayed in Jabalpur for a while where she owns a house in the Gorakhpur locality.
Pragya announced she had become a ‘Sadhvi’ (woman saint) in 2007 at the Allahabad Kumbh and was ordained by the popular seer Swami Avadheshanand Giri, the head of the powerful Juna Akhada.
Pragya was arrested in a case involving a bomb blast in Maharashtra’s Malegaon town on September 29, 2008, that killed six people and injured 101 others. The LML Freedom motorcycle used in the blast was found to be registered in her name.
The case has gone through various twists and turns, with National Investigation Agency (NIA) facing allegations of diluting the case last year after it rejected Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chargesheet and dropping several charges against Pragya, Lt Col Purohit and others citing insufficient evidence. The court, however, decided to go ahead with the case and go by the evidence brought.
Though the court dropped provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against her, she is being tried under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
A third person associated with the term ‘Hindu terror’, Aseemanand, was acquitted in March by an anti-terror court in the 2007 bombing of the Samjhauta Express that left nearly 70 people dead. After that, top BJP leaders attacked the use of the term by the Congress. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a rally in Maharashtra that the Congress had branded ‘peace-loving Hindus’ as terrorists and knew it would be punished by voters.
Significantly, Digvijaya Singh was among the Congress leaders who were most vocal in condemning ‘saffron terror’.
The BJP has never lost in Bhopal since 1989, though it has a sizeable Muslim population. Digvijaya Singh was asked by his party colleague, Chief Minister Kamal Nath, to contest from tough seats like Bhopal or Indore, where the Congress hasn’t won in years. Challenge accepted, was Digvijaya Singh’s response, and he was named for Bhopal.
The Bhopal constituency is spread over eight assembly segments — Berasia, Bhopal Uttar, Narela, Bhopal south-west, Bhopal central, Govindpura, Huzur and Sehore.
The 2019 Lok Sabha election is being conducted in seven phases from 11 April to 19 May for 543 Lok Sabha seats across the country. The counting of votes will be done on 23 May.