Opposition grows in Bhopal to BJP’s terror accused candidate Pragya Singh

Attempts are already on to persuade BJP candidate Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal to withdraw or ensure that her nomination papers are rejected

Pragya Singh Thakur
Pragya Singh Thakur

L S Herdenia

The nomination of terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur to contest for the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat ran into rough weather this week. Not only have sections of the civil society in Bhopal come out openly against her nomination, several associations of Marathi-speaking people in the city took out processions to protest after her controversial statement in which she claimed that it was her curse that had led to the killing of senior police officer Hemant Karkare during the 26/11 attack on Mumbai.

Marathi-speaking women in Bhopal also took out a candle lit march to condemn the BJP candidate.

It was Karkare, who as the head of the ATS (Anti-Terror Squad), had investigated the Malegaon blast case and arrested Pragya Singh Thakur along with other accused.

Even within the Bharatiya Janata Party, there are murmurs of disapproval. And a meeting, convened by senior party leader Vinay Sahasrabuddhe to chalk out her campaign, was not attended by a large number of influential local leaders. While Sahasrabuddhe took a serious view of the absentees and informed the party of the misgivings, BJP finds itself unable to backtrack and replace Pragya Singh with another candidate, especially after the spirited defence put up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah.

An alarmed Sahasrabuddhe, however, is learnt to have directed the sitting MP Alok Sanjar to also file his nomination in case the party is able to persuade Pragya Singh to withdraw from the fray.

What has added fuel to the fire is the strong resentment caused by the BJP candidate by her utterances. A leading Hindi daily newspaper in Bhopal has published an interview of Hemant Karkare’s daughter based in the United States. The late police officer’s colleagues too have rallied round Hemant Karkare and debunked the BJP candidate’s allegations.

Her allegation that she was tortured in custody by Karkare and his team was not borne out by medical reports, they have cited.

Investigations carried out by the National Human Rights Commission too did not find any evidence of torture and the Mumbai High Court dismissed her petition.

What has also embarrassed the BJP are facts that the charge sheet against Pragya Singh Thakur was filed in 2018 under the watch of the Modi government by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). She was also first arrested by Madhya Pradesh Police when a BJP Government headed by Shivraj Singh Chouhan was in the saddle.

A group of writers, poets, university and college teachers, scientists, journalists and women activists in Bhopal also expressed their serious concern over BJP’s decision to sponsor Pragya Thakur for the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat.

The group accused BJP of vitiating the peaceful and harmonious life in Bhopal. While the RSS and the BJP are keen to ensure the defeat of the Congress candidate Digvijaya Singh from Bhopal, the BJP should have refrained from communalising the election, they felt.

Several members of the civil society recalled at a meeting in Bhopal that the city had remained peaceful even during the Partition of the country. It was in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri mosque that the city was made to cope with communal tension for the first time.

They recalled that Digvijaya Singh at the time maintained a round the clock vigil to maintain communal harmony. After communal riots broke out in Bhopal, Singh and his team had played a stellar role in restoring peace, they declared. He and his team spent several sleepless nights in moving from one locality to other, ensuring peace and security to the people.

A BJP government was in power in the state at the time but in the elections held in 1993, the Congress wrested power back from the BJP. Digvijaya Singh became the Chief Minister and for the next 10 years no major communal violence rocked the city.

A desperate BJP, they assert, has little to show for the last 15 years when the state had a BJP government before Congress again wrested back power in December.

VYAPAM and e-tendering scams marked the BJP’s tenure in the last decade and a half. And restless at the thought of losing seats in the Lok Sabha, the BJP is trying to polarize the voters and communalise the election by fielding Pragya Singh Thakur. BJP hopes several constituencies around Bhopal could also be influenced by the polarisation.

But the plan appears to have misfired following ill-advised and reckless statements made by BJP’s nominee.

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