Pragya candidacy: BJP’s selection error?

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Terrorism is a serious charge even if one is not convicted for it. By fielding Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon blast case, from the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has sent out a clear signal that it does not care for the rule of law and due process. She has begun her campaign with a bang. She not only contends that law enforcement agents “tortured” her after her arrest, she has also argued that the death of Mumbai Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare, who she calls her main tormentor, was a case of divine retribution. Hemant Karkare was martyred in the 26/11 terror attack. The BJP’s selection shows that the party is not deterred by the fact that she is on trial on terrorism charges. On the top of it the party wants to convey, though sounds terrible, that the charge actually qualifies her to enter Parliament. 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. After initial reprieve from the National Investigation Agency, a special National Investigation Agency 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. So, by inducting her into the party and more importantly fielding her from Bhopal, the saffron party has set an unhealthy precedent.

Though she has not yet been convicted, Pragya Singh has been identified with terror. By nominating her, the BJP has made it clear that it wants to create maximum polarisation of voters on Hindu-Muslim lines. With voting now shifted to Hindi heartland (after the first two phases) where the BJP is hoping to do better, the party with Pragya’s selection wants to polarize the votes on Hindu-Muslim divide.  It should also be noted that Pragya Singh has been fielded against Digvijaya Singh, who has been most vocal about extremist Hindu organisations. The BJP has won the Bhopal seat without a break from 1989, the last time with over 60% votes. The fact that the BJP lost the assembly election in Madhya Pradesh last November may also have been a consideration. BJP leaders have reiterating it principle — “India first, self last”.  Then the question is how Pragya’s entry into the electoral fray in India’s interest?

As far as the saying goes Pragya is innocent until proven guilty. Yet there is no denying that she is a terror suspect. If BJP is so compassionate about her, the party should have waited till she comes out free of all charges. There may be no legal bar on Pragya contesting elections. But it is morally and politically indefensible for the BJP to put her up as a candidate for parliament. It amounts to legitimisation and acceptance of terrorism.



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