Some billboards in central Delhi put up by a BJP sympathiser have turned the Congress' 2019 pre-poll catch phrase "Ab hoga Nyay" on its head. They feature an image of of an ill and pale looking Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur from a time when she was in custody during the UPA regime and had to be hospitalised after she started suffering from ailments allegedly due to sustained "third degree torture".
Pragya's picture on billboards with the tagline "Ab hoga nyay" is intended to hurt the Congress on multiple counts. Since the time the NIA and Mumbai STF took a U-turn in the Malegaon and Samjhauta Express cases, and arrested her along with some others in 2008, BJP leaders have believed that she was innocent and was framed by the Congress-led UPA because it wanted to turn the heat from Islamic terrorism to Hindu terror. She was targeted because she wore saffron robes and thus it was easy to paint her and the likes of Aseemanand with the tag of Hindu terror.
Ironically, while her face symbolised saffron or Hindu terror for the Congress, her face symbolised victimisation of an innocent Hindu sadhvi by the UPA regime because of its policy of "Muslim appeasement". Since then the entire rank and file of the Sangh Parivar had been clamouring for justice for Pragya. The billboard and posters that have come up in National Capital with the tagline borrowed from Rahul Gandhi's tagline for this election is a reflection of that anguish, that belief.
The turn of events from Wednesday evening when she joined the BJP and was given party ticket from Bhopal to take on Digvijaya Singh — former Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Rahul's one-time political guru and perceived creator of the term Hindu terror suggests that the BJP has succeeded in getting what it desired. It became the biggest news of the day on Wednesday and was all over prime time TV debates and made headlines in morning newspapers. The issue continues to be discussed at length in the media and at informal corner meetings in a large part of north India.
The news around Pragya's nomination by the BJP has revived the "Hindu terror" debate. It had generated a great deal of political heat in the run-up to 2013 Assembly and 2014 parliamentary polls. The Congress badly burnt its fingers over the issue as results of those elections proved. The party has since then been on the defensive on the subject of Hindu terror, about which it talked so aggressively in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
By fielding Pragya, a Malegaon blast-accused, the BJP has given a twist to the electoral discourse. It has given it an opportunity to rake up what top Congress leaders including Rahul and Digvijaya, and those like Sushil Kumar Shinde and P Chidambaram who were home ministers in the erstwhile UPA government then said about Hindu terror.
Wikileaks revealed that Rahul told the US that Hindu extremism was a bigger threat to India than Pakistan-based terror outfir Lashkar-e-Taiba. At a Congress conclave in Jaipur in 2013, Shinde had said it had come up during investigation that the BJP and RSS conduct terror training camps to spread terrorism. He linked the Mecca Masjid, Samjhauta Express and Malegoan blasts with that line of thinking. He even claimed that there have been instances when they have planted bombs and blamed the minority community for them.
Digvijaya's alleged obsession with Hindu terror came from a series of his statements made by him for over the years. He was also on the forefront claiming that the Batla House encounter was fake, completely discounting the fact that an inspector of the Delhi Police, Mohan Chand Sharma, was killed in that encounter.
All of that has come to back to haunt the Congress.
Interestingly, the Congress went into such an intense holding pattern on the issue that none of its leaders, whether from the party's authorised fora or elsewhere, responded to Pragya's candidature from Bhopal for 48 hours. When the party eventually decided to respond, it restricted itself only to reacting to a statement by Pragya wherein she had said that Hemant Karkare, the ATS chief died (killed by terrorists in the 26 November, 2008 attacks) because of his karma.
Incidentally, in December 2010, Digvijaya released a book titled 26/11 RSS ki Sazish (26/11: An RSS conspiracy).
Pragya's candidature and the way it has turned the electoral discourse has severely hurt the Congress on another count — the party has been trying hard to portray itself as a Hindu-friendly party and its leader Rahul as a 'Janeudhari Shiv Bhakt Brahmin'.
The BJP's discourse around the Congress' Hindu terror charge combined with Rahul Gandhi choosing Muslim-Christian majority Wayanad in Kerala as an alternate constituency for the Lok Sabha polls is intended to demolish the Congress' conscious and considered efforts to regain Hindu credentials for the party.
Those who are surprised by BJP move to field Pragya as its candidate should note what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said while addressing his first public rally in Maharashtra over a fortnight ago. He spoke at length as to how the Congress invented Hindu terror theory and framed terror charges against some innocent persons. The crux of his argument was the philosophy of Hinduism was such that no Hindu could be a terrorist. "They insulted mainstream culture.. will you forgive them?" Modi asked at that rally.
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Updated Date: Apr 19, 2019 18:40:00 IST