BJP leader’s campaign condition for Pragya Thakur seat is an apology
The BJP’s Muslim leader in Madhya Pradesh Fatima Rasool Siddique has said she will campaign for Sadhvi Pragya Thakur only if the party’s candidate for the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat apologises for her comments insulting Muslims and former Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare.
Thakur is contesting against Congress candidate and former chief minister Digvijaya Singh. Bhopal goes to polls in the sixth round of the seven-phased Lok Sabha election on May 12.
She had created a political furore with her remarks on Karkare, who died fighting terrorists during the attacks on Mumbai in 2008, saying that she had cursed him just a month before his death. As her comments drew widespread condemnation, she retracted later. She, however, attempted to justify herself, saying she had been tortured by Karkare after her arrest in connection with the Malegaon blast case.
The Bharatiya Janata Party distanced itself from her comment, saying it considers Karkare a martyr and that it was her personal statement, “which she might have given because of the mental and physical torture she had faced”.
She is among the seven accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case in which six people were killed and over 100 injured. Karkare was heading the probe and Thakur was arrested as the motorcycle used in the blast was registered in her name.
The Bhopal Lok Sabha seat candidate had also said the elections were a ‘dharma yudh’ for her and that she was proud of taking part in the destruction of the Babri Masjid.
“The Sadhvi’s comments on the destruction of the Babri Masjid and how she participated in its demolition and that she is on a dharma yudh (crusade) is provocative and insulting to Muslims. She has not apologised for those offensive remarks and neither has she apologised in clear terms for insulting Hemant Karkare,” the 35-year old Siddique said.
Siddique, who had lost the last year’s assembly polls to the Congress party’s Arif Aqueel, said many people within the BJP were opposed to Thakur’s candidature, but they were keeping quiet due to ‘pressure’.
Political experts say it was mainly because of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor, that Thakur got the ticket.
“The Sadhvi does not represent the ‘Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb (secular culture) and I am hurt by her candidature and it will affect the image of both former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and also Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Siddique said.
The party is clearly miffed by her stance.
“This is not the party’s line and neither is the party in agreement with her stand. Leaders of the party must maintain discipline. Senior party leaders are keeping watch on all statement and action will be taken at the appropriate time,” the BJP’s spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai said.
According to a senior BJP leader, the total boycott by the Muslims might cost the party as there are roughly four lakh voters in the community in an electorate of around 19.5 lakh people.
“It is for this reason that the RSS has come out strongly behind the Sadhvi,” the leader cited above said.
Also read: RSS pushed Pragya Thakur for Bhopal battle
The leader also said that former chief minister Chouhan had a positive image among Muslims and the BJP had been able to make some inroads in the community in the past 15 years but the Thakur’s comments had put the clock back.
Sensing this, Thakur and RSS leaders held an hour-long meeting on Friday at the Sangh’s office to discuss the electoral strategy.