When BJP politician Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur kicked up a storm today by claiming that Maharashtra police officer Hemant Karkare died fighting terrorists during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks because she had "cursed" him, criticism poured in from all quarters. While party colleague Shahnawaz Hussain condemned the manner in which questions were being raised on Mr Karkare's death, Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha claimed that such remarks amount to "mocking" somebody killed in the country's service.
Karnataka Congress chief Siddaramaiah, however, had a different take on the matter. "We are sensitising people to the non-existence of supernatural powers by passing the anti-superstition bill, but a @BJP4India candidate is hallucinating about having supernatural powers that harmed the ATS chief. Remember, if you vote BJP, you end up voting idiots!!" he tweeted.
Siddaramaiah was referring to a bill in the state assembly that aims to put an end to various superstitious practices "causing harm to humans and animals in the name of religion".
Sadhvi Pragya, a Malegaon blasts accused who is out on health grounds, is being fielded by the BJP from Bhopal in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. She claimed to have placed a curse on Mr Karkare because he dared launch an investigation into her alleged involvement in the Malegaon blasts, which resulted in the death of six people on September 29, 2008.
"I told him that he will be destroyed, and he was gone in less than two months," bragged Sadhvi Pragya at a press meet, even as the BJP leaders standing beside her clapped with glee.
She apologised later in the evening, saying: "I take back my words."
Digvijaya Singh, the Congress candidate from the Madhya Pradesh capital, cited rules put forth by the Election Commission to say that "no political comment" should be made against the army or those killed in combat. "Hemant Karkareji was an honest and committed officer who attained martyrdom for the people of Mumbai in a terror attack," he told news agency ANI earlier today.
The Aam Aadmi Party maintained that nothing short of an apology from the BJP would suffice. "The nation is proud and in debt of Mumbai ATS Chief Hemant Karkare, who laid down his life fighting against terrorists during the 26/11 attacks. @BJP4India must apologize for insulting Hemant Karkare," it tweeted. However, BJP politician Nalin Kohli tried to explain the remark away by terming it as the point of view of somebody who had "undergone an investigation".
Sadhvi Pragya's candidature had earlier come in for criticism too, with many questioning how she was able to campaign tirelessly in the Lok Sabha elections when her lawyers maintain that she is too ill to even be in prison. Others like AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi wondered how a "terror accused" was being allowed to contest the polls.
The Indian Police Service Association also came out strongly against Sadhvi Pragya's remarks. "Ashok Chakra awardee late Hemant Karkare, IPS, made the supreme sacrifice fighting terrorists. Those of us in uniform condemn the insulting statement made by a candidate and demand that sacrifices of all our martyrs be respected," it said in a tweet.