The nomination of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur - an accused in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case -- as the BJP candidate against Congress's Digvijaya Singh in Bhopal, has raised a storm of criticism in the opposition camp. While a Congress leader has gone to the Election Commission asking the nomination be revoked, others have questioned how the 48-year-old could be well enough to campaign but too ill to stay in jail.
Pragya Thakur has been cleared of charges under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act or MCOCA. But she is still an accused under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for a series of bomb attacks that killed six people and injured around 100 at Maharashtra's Malegaon.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah has been among the first to raise questions about Pragya Thakur's health, for which a Mumbai court granted her bail in 2017.
"Since the BJP depends on the religion card when it is left with nothing else, they have now given mandate from Bhopal to someone who is not just a terror accused, but is on bail," Mr Abdullah told reporters today. "If her health is not good enough to stay in jail, how can she be fit enough to fight polls?"
Several leaders have openly accused the BJP of attempting aggressive polarisation. Others, like Mehbooba Mufti, have pointed out what they perceive as the BJP's double standards.
Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, said, the Prime Minister does not want to fight terrorism. "If you wanted to fight terrorism, if you had class and sincerity, then you would not have made a person with terrorism charges a candidate," he said at a rally in Aurangabad.
Imagine the anger if I'd field a terror accused. Channels would've gone berserk by now trending a mehboobaterrorist hashtag! According to these guys terror has no religion when it comes to saffron fanatics but otherwise all Muslims are terrorists. Guilty until proven innocent https://t.co/ymTumxgty7— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) April 17, 2019
The Congress appears to have adopted a strategy to avoid making any comment that might play into the BJP's hands.
Asked about her nomination, senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh said, "What else can we expect from the BJP." Prodded by the reporters, he said it was the BJP's decision and he did not want to speak more, indicating the Congress's tactic to not join the issue with the BJP.
Digvijay Singh, Pragya Thakur's opponent from the Bhopal seat, has made no comment apart from welcoming her to Bhopal. Yesterday, the two-time Chief Minister tweeted:
"I welcome Sadhvi Pragyaji in Bhopal and hope that the picturesque city's peaceful, educated and dignified environment would attract you," the former chief minister tweeted.
मैं साध्वी प्रज्ञा जी का भोपाल में स्वागत करता हूँ। आशा करता हूँ कि इस रमणीय शहर का शांत, शिक्षित और सभ्य वातावरण आपको पसंद आएगा।— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) April 17, 2019
मैं माँ नर्मदा से साध्वी जी के लिए प्रार्थना करता हूँ और नर्मदा जी से आशीर्वाद माँगता हूँ कि हम सब सत्य, अहिंसा और धर्म की राह पर चल सकें।
नर्मदे हर! pic.twitter.com/LYAbpTObgY
Explaining Pragya Thakur's candidature, BJP chief Amit Shah yesterday said Digvijay Singh was the "creator" of the term saffron terror and pitting her against him would put the matter in the people's court.
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