BJP has stunned its political opponents by fielding Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur against Congress’s veteran leader and the former CM of Madhya Pradesh Digvijaya Singh in Bhopal. It is seen as the PM Narendra Modi’s trump card against Congress, while opposition leaders are alleging that BJP has come back to its hard-line ‘Hindutva’ agenda. Moreover, the bookies of Madhya Pradesh are confident of the win of Sadhvi. They feel Hindu heartland constituency Bhopal will make it impossible for Congress’ Digvijaya to secure a major percentage of vote share.
A bookie from Madhya Pradesh (Asad Khwaja) told Afternoon Voice that the bookies of his state have placed BJP candidate Sadhvi Pragya at a better betting rate than Digvijaya Singh. He also stated, “Even if all the Muslim and tribal votes go to the Congress, BJP will secure nearly 60 per cent consolidated Hindu votes. BJP candidate Sadhvi Pragya has a major sympathy wave in her favour and she will be benefitted from this.”
On the other hand, Mumbai’s Satta Bazar does not think on similar tunes. A bookie from Mumbai on the condition of anonymity said, “It is not fair to bet entirely on Sadhvi Pragya. No one can completely predict who is going to win this Lok Sabha election. There is a fair chance of Digvijaya Singh’s victory too, though with a thin margin. He will get all the Muslim and tribal votes and even there are chances of him getting the support of some Hindus, who are distracted by propaganda against Sadhvi Pragya. There will be no wonder if Congress wins in Bhopal.”
Sadhvi Pragya is a strong critic of Digvijaya Singh. Her candidature has made the battle of Bhopal constituency interesting. It is worth mentioning that Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 1 at a rally in Wardha in Maharashtra said that the Congress had branded peace-loving Hindus as terrorists. PM Modi further said that Congress coined the term Hindu terror or Saffron terror. He asked the public is there a single incident of Hindu terrorism? He said that Congress insulted Hindus. People have decided to punish it in the elections. Until then, no one knew that BJP was going to declare a Hindu hardliner as its candidate in the electoral fray. On the other hand, the Congress leaders fear that any attack on the lines of Hindu terror will help Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP. They will raise the bogey of the Congress party being anti-Hindu.
Former Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said, “BJP has inducted Sadhvi Pragya and issued ticket to a Sadhu in Solapur. We politicians now will sit at home and they will run the nation. NIA special court had granted bail to Sadhvi Pragya and the government did not appeal against it.”
Sadhvi Pragya is accused of murder, conspiracy and other charges in the Malegaon bomb blasts in 2008. Currently, she is out on bail. In this case, she was cleared under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) but faces other charges. She is being tried under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Sadhvi was also a key accused in the murder of RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi and her name had figured as an alleged conspirator in the Samjhauta Express blasts too. However, last year, she had been acquitted of all charges in the Sunil Joshi murder case. At the time, she had maintained that the case was filed against her as part of a conspiracy by Digvijaya Singh. Sadhvi Pragya had spent nearly nine years, until April 2017, lodged in an MP jail owing to her alleged involvement in the blasts cases. Pragya has often alleged that she was subjected to extreme torture, while in police and judicial custody.
Rural Development Minister of State Dada Bhuse said, “Police department had filed a case in the Malegaon bomb blast incident and they should investigate to find out who is the accused. Later, the case was forwarded to CID and the agency had filed chargesheet against two persons. CBI and SIT had carried out the probe. There were reports about some agencies which had conducted an improper investigation. We can’t directly hold Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur responsible for the act. If a ticket has been issued to Sadhvi Pragya, then what is the problem?”
Malegaon blasts accused Sadhvi Pragya formally joined the BJP on Wednesday. Hours after her joining BJP, she was declared the party’s candidate from Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency against Digvijaya Singh. Prior to this, Sadhvi Pragya met former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and BJP leader Prabhat Jha in Bhopal and announced that she had joined the saffron party and will contest and win the upcoming election. Sources in the BJP also said that the party is banking on Sadhvi Pragya for the Bhopal seat as it hopes to benefit from the polarisation of votes. Bhopal constituency has nearly 40 per cent Muslim voters.
Former Maharashtra inspector general of police SM Musrif said, “There is a big force in Hindus who oppose Muslims. Sadhvi Pragya also belongs to that category as she is a hardline Muslim opposer. Hence, BJP issued ticket to her. A question which arises here is despite possessing evidence how bail was granted to Sadhvi Pragya? Indian judiciary has taken this decision due to pressure imposed by the government.”
Sadhvi Pragya has been a bitter critic of Digvijaya Singh and has consistently maintained that she was framed by the investigating agencies and charged with stringent sections of the UAPA Act in the Malegaon blasts case at the behest of Digvijaya Singh and former Union Home minister P Chidambaram.
“I am ready for a dharma-yuddh’,” Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur had told PTI last month when her name started doing rounds as a probable BJP candidate. She said, “I am ready to take on Digvijaya Singh if ‘sanghatan’ (organisation) asks me to do so.” she called the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister an “anti-Hindu leader who called Hindus terrorists”. On the other hand, Digvijaya Singh welcomed her candidature and prayed for her. However, the Congress party fears that the Hindu terror issue will be raised and it may benefit BJP.
BJP president Amit Shah said that it will punish the Congress for raising the bogey of Hindu terror. Digvijaya Singh had earlier been extremely vocal on saffron terror, questioning even the UPA government, which was led by the Congress, on the Batla House encounter in Delhi in 2008 which saw the police killing Muslim terrorist suspects.
Mehbooba Mufti, the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir in a coalition government with the BJP, tweeted on Pragya’s candidature, “Imagine the anger if I had fielded a terror accused. Channels would have gone berserk trending a hashtag.”
BJP National Vice President Vinay Sahasrabuddhe asserted, “I had tweeted Sadhvi Pragya post her entry; she represents women power. It also represents the collective fight of BJP against the vote bank politics. Congress has realised that they are going to lose, so they are definitely disturbed by the proceedings.”