- She will contest from Bhopal, a BJP leader told NDTV
- Sadhvi Pragya was charged in the 2008 Malegaon blasts
- Digvijaya Singh is the Congress candidate in Bhopal
Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts, will contest as the BJP candidate from Madhya Pradesh's Bhopal, where former chief minister Digvijaya Singh is the Congress candidate. Sadhvi Pragya is out on bail in the case, in which she was cleared under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) but faces other charges.
"I will definitely win," Sadhvi Pragya, dressed in saffron silk robes, said at the BJP office in Bhopal.
"Anyone talking about bhagwa (saffron) and terror or Hindutva and terror, be warned. Anyone talking against the country be warned. I pledge to restore dignity to saffron," she said, to chants of "Jai Shri Ram".
Sadhvi 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 Sadhvi Pragya, alleging a conspiracy to frame her.
Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, a controversial figure known for incendiary comments and speeches, had been associated with the BJP-linked youth outfit Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and 'Durga Vahini' or women's wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
Though the National Investigation Agency (NIA) court dropped charges under MCOCA against her, she is being tried under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
A third person associated with the term "Hindu terror", Swami 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". "I welcome Sadhvi Pragya to Bhopal. I hope you will like the peaceful, educated and decent environment in this city. I pray to mother Narmada for her and pray that we all can be on the path of truth, non-violence and religion."
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.
By fielding Sadhvi Pragya against a strong Congress candidate, the BJP is hoping for polarization, analysts speculate.