he 2019 elections in Madhya Pradesh are going to be very interesting as Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur is all set to take on Congress’s Digvijaya Singh from Bhopal. The 48-year-old Sadhvi, who spent nine years in jail, joined the BJP nearly three years after being cleared of charges under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act or MCOCA. However, she faces other charges for the series of bombings that killed six people and injured more than 100 in Maharashtra’s Malegaon in 2008. She is a Sannyasin and a Nationalist; this is what Madhya Pradesh wanted in their candidate. During her interview on a popular TV show Aap Ki Adalat, she revealed that she was brutally tortured in illegal police custody for 23 days continuously during interrogation and was denied access to her lawyer and family members. The goal of the interrogation was to force her confessing false charges brought against her. That was indeed a conspiracy hatched by then in power Congress-led UPA government, which resulted in her nine-year ordeal. The conspiracy was meant to endorse the bogey of saffron terrorism, a term coined by former home minister P Chidambaram and former home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. Let us assume that she has some tainted background, still, criminals entering politics is the larger question. Any organisation chooses people from a talent pool and so, political parties select talents from the available pool to maximise their win ability in an election. It is likely to be the BJP now because it is a much larger party.
However, cases do not mean anything, while convictions automatically disqualify candidates from holding elected office. So, it is a waste of time to cry about cases.
An average Indian sees politics as a sub-standard profession even though politicians decide the fate and direction of a nation. It is such a wonderful paradox of modern India.
Sadhvi Pragya, who is contesting from the Bhopal constituency against Congress’ Digvijaya Singh, is currently out on bail in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. An ABVP activist during her college days, she had an affinity with the Hindu right-wing since her childhood. Thakur was given bail by the Bombay High Court in April 2017 on health grounds. According to the bail order, given by a Bombay High Court bench, she was given bail because she “suffering from breast cancer” and was “unable to walk even without support.” After her bail, there is no follow up on her case, whether she got operated, whether she has been cured, or what the current status of her cancer is. Anyways, since her release, she is seen active and busy in giving interviews to various channels. Well, she is known as an upholder of Hindutva; in such a scenario, wooing other votes would be difficult.
Around 4.5 lakh of the 18-lakh voters in Bhopal are Muslims. Thakur’s candidature against Singh could possibly see the poll battle turn into a bitter one with communal overtones. Digvijaya Singh has routinely targeted the RSS-BJP and other constituents of the Sangh Parivar and in turn, labelled “anti-Hindu” by saffron hardliners.
Congress recently has once again become strong spreading its tentacles in every nook and corner. A lot of regional parties tried to form an alliance but there was no uniformity, they were too diverse. India needed a top-down approach, a party that assimilated all the diversity within itself but still united different states; the only similarity between different states of India is Hinduism, which BJP used intentionally or otherwise to take the role of an alternative option. Looking at every clear possibility, BJP brilliantly came up with Pragya as a choice, and why not, as she was called what not — from a terrorist to someone who manufactured sainthood as she wanted to marry someone with whom she had an affair. While she is a religious mind and she has forgiven her persecutors, Thakur wants Digvijay Singh and media trials that have assassinated her character to get a lesson. Although the propaganda of Congress will not pay anything like the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had given Thakur a clean chit in 2016 by dropping her name from the chargesheet in the Malegaon case. Moreover, this battle is about Hindu Pride Vs Secular bigots. She was the ‘symbol’ of the party’s fight against the vote bank politics of the Congress. Thakur will attract women voters in Bhopal and Madhya Pradesh for the party, which has been winning the Lok Sabha seat since 1989. The battle in Madhya Pradesh is crucial for the BJP as it will be in a direct contest with the Congress, which ended the BJP’s 15-year-old rule in the state in the December assembly elections. Time will tell how much Sadhvi magic can speak for BJP’s prospects in the state.
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