Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan today said that Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur has been made the BJP candidate from Bhopal as the party feels she is "not guilty" but was made a scapegoat by the then Congress government after coining the word 'bhagwa aatanki' (saffron terror).
In an interview to IANS, Mr Chouhan said, "Sadhvi Pragya Thakur was made the party's candidate after a lot of deliberation.
He said in 2008 a word was coined 'bhagwa aatanki' (saffron terror).
"Congress coined this word and they made her scapegoat and Digvijaya Singh was the medium," he said.
The former Chief Minister said that a different kind of atmosphere was created by bringing in "Hindutva terrorism" in the picture.
"This was brought under a conspiracy to defame Hindutva. And Sadhvi Pragya was made the scapegoat. She was tortured and despite being a woman she was beaten up mercilessly," he said.
When asked if the party could have waited till the time the court acquitted her in the Malegaon blast case, he said, "Why should we have to wait to get her acquitted when we believe that she is not a terror accused."
"And Sadhvi Pragya is not fighting alone we all are fighting with her in the elections," he said.
To a question if she was fielded from Bhopal after looking at the Congress candidate Digvijaya Singh, Chauhan said, "We fielded her only after Digvijaya Singh's candidature was announced in Bhopal. It was decided that she was the perfect candidate against Digvijaya Singh.
"And it was a collective decision of the party," he said.
When asked if the BJP government had done a lot of development works in last five years, then why rake nationalism as the party's main election slogan, the BJP leader said, "Nationalism has always been our issue. Will any citizen like, if any soldiers is beheaded by Pakistan?"
Recalling the 2016 surgical strikes and the 2019 Balakot air strike across the border, he said: "After Uri and Pulwama we gave befitting reply to Pakistan.
"There is nothing wrong in nationalism issue," he said.
Lamenting at the Congress and the other opposition parties, the three time Chief Minister said: "Those who are worried never followed nationalism and never bothered for the national security.
"Those who gave shelter to SIMI and those who speak in the language of terrorists have problem with the issue of nationalism," he asserted.
Hitting out at the Congress for demanding evidence after the air strikes in Pakistan, he said: "After Balakot everyone is happy but the Congress questions it. They looked sad after the surgical strike and air strike and after we successfully brought back Wing Commander Abhinandan."
He also said that the government's war against terrorism has entered into the final stage as dreaded terrorist Masood Azhar has been declared a global terrorist by the UN Security Council and the Burhan Wani gang in Kashmir has been eliminated.
"The BJP has always said that it will never compromise on the issue of national security," he said adding that there are few disruptive forces in the country and they too will be crushed.
Asked about how many seats the party will win in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP leader said: "We won 27 out of 29 in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and this time also we are hopeful of winning 25+ seats in the state."
Citing the reasons for the party's strong performance in the state, he said, "In the last four months, the Kamal Nath government has proved to be a boon for the BJP in the state."
He said the people have seen the difference between the work style of the two governments. "The work of three term BJP government and the four month old Congress government is visible to the people now.
Accusing the Congress of not fulfilling it's poll promise, he said: "They promised to waive off the farmers loan in the state. Go and ask people and they will tell you -- it has not been done."
He said even the promise of providing unemployment wage remains unfulfilled.
"They have also stopped the pro-people schemes launched during our government like the sambal scheme. People are angry with them," he claimed.
He also said that the power supply condition and law and order situation in the state has detoriated ever since the Congress came to power.
He accused the Congress government of running the "transfer industry" in the state and said for any soughted post all one has to do is pay.
When asked why he was not contesting in the Lok Sabha polls despite being the front runner from Vidisha after Union Minister Sushma Swaraj announced not to contest polls, Chauhan said: "Vidisha is my home and there we are going to win."
"I could have fought from any of the 10 seats in the state. I believe after being Chief Minister for three terms I don't seek any chair."
He said if he lost in the state then it does not mean that he shall go to Delhi for another post.
"It was an easier task to go to Parliament after winning the Lok Sabha elections but I am emotionally attached to the 7.5 crore people of Madhya Pradesh. I don't love position but I love my people. And I have asked my party to allow me to serve my state," he said.
Chauhan, who has addressed over 125 public meetings in 10 states in the last 57 days said that the BJP would have formed the government in the state but it respected the mandate of the people as it got less seats as compared to the Congress.
When asked how long the Kamal Nath government will last, he said, "(BSP chief) Mayawati is angry with the Congress as her MLA was taken into Congress fold by Jyotiraditya Scindia. So, if the government falls on its own then we cannot do anything."
Pressed further, he said, "If such condition (Congress government fails) arises then we will see what happens. Right now we will focus to fight against the government on issues."
Asked whether Narendra modi government will return to power, Mr Chouhan said: "Modi government will return to power. I have covered all the 29 seats in the state and I have seen the people backing PM Modi due to his clear track record and transparency in public life."
He also asserted that the BJP will alone secure 300 seats.
"People do not have an alternative to PM Modi. There is no one. Even the opposition does not have the answer to: If not Modi, then who?"
He also said that the people back PM Modi because of the development works under his government in last five years.
So far 13 out of 29 seats in Madhya Pradesh have voted. Elections in rest of the 16 seats go to polls in the sixth and seventh phase of on May 12 and 19. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.