BJP's Bhopal candidate and 2008 Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur has been a double-edged sword for the saffron party, which has projected her as the face of Hindutva in the fight against Congress' Digvijaya Singh who was the force behind the coinage of the term 'Hindu terror'.
Thakur's candidature was the BJP’s attempt to showcase Congress as an “anti-Hindu” party that had falsely implicated Hindus by propagating the term "saffron terror". BJP president Amit Shah had described her candidature as a “satyagraha” against the "myth" of saffron terror, whereas Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called it “a symbolic answer to all those who falsely labelled the rich Hindu civilisation as terrorist.”
However, ever since Thakur started her campaign for the Lok Sabha election 2019, she has been embroiled in controversies over her statements, including one terming Nathuram Godse as a "patriot." Thakur was asked to apologise for the same by the party, but Modi subsequently said that he would not be able to forgive insulting comments about Mahatma Gandhi.
Later, notices were served to two more party leaders from Karnataka — Anantkumar Hegde and Nalin Kateel — for tweeting statements supporting Thakur's stance and an internal inquiry was also initiated against all three by Shah, who distanced BJP from the remarks.
However, subsequently, Madhya Pradesh BJP's IT cell head Anil Saumitra called Gandhi not the Father of the Nation but the “father of Pakistan” on Facebook and remained defiant about his post. “No scholar can prove me wrong. I will not delete my post," he said. Saumitra was later suspended from the party’s primary membership.
Such statements by party leaders put Modi in a catch-22 position. The prime minister has proudly claimed the legacy of some Congress icons in his quest to both moor his ideas and make the BJP a party concomitant with India’s political history, as pointed out by Sreemoy Talukdar in this article. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched as an imprimatur of Gandhi, a mention he doesn't forget to make, as the article further states.
Recently, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar also strongly condemned Thakur's remark and said that the BJP should consider expelling her from the party.
This is not the first time that Thakur has brought trouble for her party. Previously, she had drawn the ire of the Election Commission for her remark on the Babri Masjid demolition, which led to a 72-hour ban on her poll campaign. Before that, she stirred a major controversy due to her claim that former Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare died in the 26/11 terror attack because of her “curse” which she gave him for her detention and alleged torture as an accused in the Malegaon blast case, which he was investigating. The BJP had to distance itself from her remark, and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis reiterated the party's respect for Karkare and his sacrifice.
Meanwhile, Thakur has also given dubious advice on Ayurvedic medical treatment and 'cow care'. Thakur is out on bail for medical reasons, which include treatment for breast cancer. She claimed that her ailment was cured by a mixture of 'gau mutra' (cow urine) and other products derived from the animal. Among other claims, Thakur in an interview stated that rubbing a cow's back in a forward motion can help ease blood pressure.
However, a surgeon from Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow said Thakur had undergone a bilateral mastectomy (removal of both breasts) to prevent recurrence of her cancer. And cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon Dr SS Rajput, who has operated on Thakur three times, said she was diagnosed with stage-1 or early-stage cancer, which was of an aggressive nature. “I operated on her first in 2008 at the Mumbai’s JJ Hospital when she had developed a tumour in the right breast. At that time, the report of the tumour was inconclusive. In 2012, the tumour recurred,” Dr Rajput said. Thereafter, a surgery which involved removing one-third of her right breast along with the tumour was carried out followed by another surgery, the doctor told The Hindu.
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Updated Date: May 21, 2019 00:12:56 IST