Who is Pragya Thakur? Sadhvi Pragya or Pragya Thakur Singh, according to Wikipedia, was born in 1970 in Bhind in Madhya Pradesh. Her father, C P Thakur, was a 'Demonstrator' in the agriculture department of the Madhya Pradesh government. He was also an active member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. So, when in college, Pragya joined the student wing of the Sangh, namely the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. We therefore know the background she comes from, a background that is shared by many worthies in the BJP and in the present government. What she says and does is what has been taught to her and is fully in line with the thinking of the Parivar she belongs to.
In 2006, she was the main accused in the Malegaon bombing case, a terrorist attack in which six people were killed and another 100 injured. She is presently on bail and is the BJP candidate from Bhopal in the current Lok Sabha elections. The Congress candidate is Digvijaya Singh. The whole country eagerly awaits the result of this particular election on May 23.
The candidature of Pragya Singh Thakur is a well-calculated move of the Modi-Shah combine in the BJP to communalise this election. The other moves in the same game are Pakistan, the abolition of articles 370 and 35A, the repeated reference to religion and religious faiths in their speeches and the open exhibition of religious symbols, as Amit Shah did in his road show in Kolkata the other day.
These are all pointers in the same direction- with nothing concrete to show as their achievements of the last five years as far as governance was concerned, they took recourse to the time-tested formula of the Sangh Parivar to divide the populace along religious lines for electoral gains. And they have done it so crassly and vulgarly that it has left the people gasping except the Election Commission which has resolutely refused to take notice of these violations of the model code of conduct, much less take action against the offenders.
Prime Minister Modi takes every opportunity to castigate the leaders of the opposition parties, specially those belonging to the Congress as passengers of a 'bail gadi', yet he had no hesitation in putting up Pragya Thakur, an accused in a terror related case, out on bail on health grounds, as the party's candidate from the prestigious Lok Sabha seat of Bhopal. And the BJP, the Prime Minister and unfortunately the Election Commission have allowed her to get away with all the most blatant violations of the model code of conduct. Early in the electoral battle, she made the now infamous remark about late Hemant Karkare who died fighting Pakistani terrorists during their attack on Mumbai in November 2008. He had investigated the Malegaon bombing case and had interrogated Pragya Thakur in that case. Pragya said it was her curse that led to the killing of Hemant Karkare by the terrorists, a remark which was so atrocious that it should have led to her instant disqualification by the Election Commission. Yet nothing of the sort happened. Like Yogi Adityanath earlier, the Commission merely restrained her from campaigning for three days. And again, like the Yogi, the Sadhvi used these days to visit temples for prayers in full view and glare of the media. She accumulated more propaganda value for herself during these days than perhaps she would have otherwise by her election campaign.
Now she has come out with an anti-national and seditious remark that Nathuram Godse, the murderer of Mahatma Gandhi, was a patriot. What does this mean? That killing Gandhi was a patriotic act? In other words, Gandhi was not a patriot? How can one patriot kill another patriot and still qualify as a patriot? And if Gandhi was not a patriot, then let us remove his photographs and paintings, in fact, all his traces, from whereever they are in India and abroad? Let us tell the people of India and the world that actually we had got it all wrong all these years and Gandhi was a traitor and the real patriot was Godse. Let Pragya Thakur and the likes of her, who now abound in the BJP, be allowed to revise our history books and tell our children the 'truth'.
What is the problem? The problem, according to me,is that we do not react. Look at the brazen manner in which she has received support from within the BJP and in the social media? After a thundering silence of 24 hours the Prime Minister has come out with a very weak statement saying he will not be able to forgive Pragya for this statement. Is this enough? Not by a long shot. He should have taken action against her by summarily throwing her out of the party. I am surprised that the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has not acted in this matter so far. If Dr Sunil Kumar Nishad can be arrested in Maharashtra for posting 'objectionable' remarks against Pragya Thakur, why should she be allowed to get away with this blue murder in Madhya Pradesh?
I do not know what the Election Commission will do in this case. It has called for a report but its track record so far does not inspire confidence. Mercifully, the country will be rid of this rule of the Election Commission, the prejudiced, one-sided rule of the Commission, on May 23 or soon thereafter, and we will all be able to breathe more freely again. The constitution of India provides for rule by the elected representatives of the people, for President's rule in the states in certain circumstances, but not for the rule by the Election Commission. But slowly and cleverly, the Commission has extended its authority beyond its remit to bring the entire country within its rule during elections. And elections have become unnecessarily extended processes in our country. It is time parliament looked at it seriously in order to lay down some guidelines for the Commission on how to behave during elections and how to conduct them.
In the meanwhile, the government of Madhya Pradesh should arrest Sadhvi Pragya for her remarks on Godse and Gandhi and proceed against her according to law. Nothing less will satisfy the people of India. And if the people have any sense, which they have in plenty, no one should vote for the BJP on May 19.
Yashwant Sinha, former BJP leader, was Minister of Finance (1998-2002) and Minister of External Affairs (2002-2004)
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