Given the charges against her, Pragya Thakur’s choice was avoidable
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has set an unhealthy precedent in inducting Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur into the party and making her its candidate in Bhopal . Ms Thakur is the main accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. On September 29, 2008, a blast in Malegaon, Maharashtra, killed six and injured around 100. Ms Thakur, arrested the same year, is now out on bail but still faces charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). She was granted bail in 2017 after the National Investigation Agency said in 2016 that Ms Thakur was not connected to the blast, and also dropped charges against her under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. However, a special National Investigation Agency court in December 2017 refused to drop the charges under UAPA. In late 2018, the court framed charges against Ms Thakur and the six other accused in the case. These charges related to terrorism under UAPA and murder and fanning enmity between communities under the Indian Penal Code.
To be sure, none of the charges have been proven in a court of law yet, and Ms Thakur and her supporters maintain that she was framed by a government keen to establish the concept of “Hindu” or “Saffron” terror. Still, even if she is innocent, given the magnitude of the charges, the BJP could have avoided making her its candidate in Bhopal (where she will take on the Congress’s Digvijaya Singh, whom she and her family hold partly responsible for the case against her).
If there’s still any doubt about the correctness of the move, imagine for a moment what the reaction would have been had the National Conference or the Trinamool Congress, or just about any other party, given a ticket to a person out on bail on terror charges.
Apart from being unprecedented, the BJP’s decision regarding Ms Thakur also reflects an extremely cynical approach to the choice of candidates — even in the context of several parties picking candidates with serious charges against them. That her running will also polarise the electorate in Madhya Pradesh, maybe even beyond, is certain. Then, this is perhaps what the BJP hopes to achieve — that and to send a message to the faithful that it will stand by its own.