Bhopal Lok Sabha seat: Malegaon blast accused vs Congress’ Digvijaya Singh

The BJP had earlier planned to field former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan or senior leader Uma Bharti in Bhopal. Both declined to contest against Digvijaya Singh

Digvijay Singh and Sadhvi Pragya Thakur
Digvijay Singh and Sadhvi Pragya Thakur
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Kashif Kakvi

Hours after Sadhvi Pragya Thakur joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bhopal on Wednesday, the party fielded the 2008 Malegaon Bomb blast accused from the Bhopal parliamentary constituency.

"I have formally joined the BJP, I will contest elections and will definitely win. It won't be difficult for me," Sadhvi Pragya told reporters at the BJP office in Bhopal.

Former Chief Minister of the state Digvijaya Singh is the Congress candidate from the seat. The relations between Singh and Thakur have been bitter ever since Digvijaya termed her ‘Hindu Terrorist’ after her involvement in the 2008 Malegaon blast. Significantly, Digvijaya was among the Congress leaders who were most vocal in condemning ‘saffron terror’.

More than three weeks after the announcement Digvijaya Singh’s name as the Congress candidate from Bhopal, the BJP has announced Sadhvi Pragya Thakur’s name. Earlier, the Sadhvi had written a letter to BJP chief Amit Shah showing her interest to contest against him. But the party wanted to field former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan or Uma Bharti, according to sources. But both the senior leaders reportedly declined. It was only after that the BJP announced Pragya Thakur’s name from the Bhopal LS seat.

Thakur, one of the accused in the 2008 blast case, is currently out on bail.

Who is Sadhvi Pragya Thakur?

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, a controversial figure known for inflammatory comments and speeches, has been associated with the BJP-linked youth outfit Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and 'Durga Vahini' or women's wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). She is the resident of Madhya Pradesh.

On December 27, 2017, a special NIA court had dropped stringent provisions of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya, Sameer Kulkarni and other accused in the 2008 Malegaon Blast blast case.

On September 29, 2008, Six persons were killed and 101 were injured when an improvised explosive device strapped on a motorcycle went off at Malegaon .

Two bombs fitted on a motorcycle exploded, killing six people and injuring over 100 in Malegaon in Maharashtra, around 270 km from Mumbai.

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 the tough seats like Bhopal or Indore, where the Congress hasn't won in years. ‘Challenge accepted’, was Digvijaya Singh's response, and his name was announced as the Congress candidate from Bhopal.

By fielding Sadhvi Pragya against a strong Congress candidate, the BJP is hoping for polarisation, analysts speculate.

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