The BJP on Wednesday announced Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, one of the key accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, as the party's candidate from Bhopal.
Thakur was a key accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts in which two bombs fitted to motorcycle went off in the Maharashtra town on 9 September, 2008, killing seven people.
Out on bail, Thakur has been discharged by a court on charges under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in the 2008 case, but is still facing trial under other criminal provisions including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Thakur was given bail by the Bombay High Court in April 2017 on health grounds. According to the bail order, given by a Bombay High Court bench headed by Justices Shalini Phansalkar Joshi and Ranjit More, she was given bail because she "suffering from breast cancer" and was "unable to walk even without support".
In the bail order, the Bombay High Court bench said, "...Medical certificate annexed to the petition and written submissions show that appellant is suffering from breast cancer. The medical report of the Appellant indicates that she has become infirm and cannot even walk without support. The medical certificate further shows that Appellant is being given treatment in Ayurvedic hospital. In our opinion, Ayurvedic Hospital cannot give proper treatment to the Appellant, who is suffering from cancer."
The Court further stated: "Taking, therefore, totality of the facts and circumstances of the case mentioned here-in-above, we are of the considered opinion that the Appellant has made out a case for bail under sub-section (5) of section 43D of the UAP Act. We, accordingly, allow the Appeal and Appellant is directed to be released on bail on her furnishing bail bond of Rs.5,00,000/-, with with one or two sureties of like amount...."
The conditions under which Thakur received bail were pointed out by National Conference chief Omar Abdullah in a tweet, where he slammed the BJP for making a "mockery of the legal system".
"A person, an under-trial, who stands accused of terrorism; out on bail on health grounds but clearly healthy enough to fight elections in the crippling summer heat. Hindutva rules!" Omar Abdullah tweeted on Wednesday.
What a mockery of the legal system the BJP has made with its candidate for Indore! A person, an under-trial, who stands accused of terrorism; out on bail on health grounds but clearly healthy enough to fight elections in the crippling summer heat. Hindutva rules!
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) April 17, 2019
The National Conference leader also questioned the bail order saying, "If her health condition doesn't permit her to be in jail, how does it permit her to contest polls?"
On Wednesday, Thakur was ecstatic as she walked into the BJP office in Bhopal to formally join the party. She even gave interviews after her meeting saying, she will "win the election". However, on Thursday, after the 'health reasons' under which she received bail were highlighted, videos of her in a wheelchair began circulating on media.
Madhya Pradesh: Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur has arrived at the BJP office in Bhopal and is currently meeting senior BJP leaders Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Ramlal, and Prabhat Jha. pic.twitter.com/9rG7KuLiq0
— ANI (@ANI) April 17, 2019
— ANI (@ANI) April 17, 2019
People's Democratic Party leader Mehboob Mufti also slammed the decision, saying had her party fielded a terror accused, then news channels would have gone berserk.
"Imagine the anger if I fielded a terror accused. Channels would have gone berserk by now trending a mehboobaterrorist hashtag! According to these guys terror has no religion when it comes to saffron fanatics but otherwise all Muslims are terrorists. Guilty until proven innocent (sic)," she tweeted.
In a terse reaction, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said, "What else can we expect from the BJP."
However, Thakur's candidacy, has elicited enthusiastic reactions from Hindutva votaries and BJP leaders.
BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party President Amit Shah have often accused Congress of coining the "Hindu terror" phrase and slapping "false" terror cases on Hindutva activists when the UPA was in power.
On Wednesday, at a rally in Odisha, Shah said that the BJP has decided to take the matter (of Hindu terror) to the "people's court" by fielding Thakur against Singh. He also accused Congress of defaming India by coining terms like "Hindu terror" and "saffron terror".
BJP national vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe said Thakur "symbolises the fighting spirit of a woman, the courage for braving unspeakable torture for victory of truth and above all our relentless struggle to free democracy from crass vote bank politics".
Hindutva votary and another party leader Subramanian Swamy said Thakur had "suffered enormously" and was a "victim" of the Congress agenda.
Calling the 48-year-old saffron activist innocent and devoted to religion, Swamy played down other charges she is facing, saying "those are in the final stages of being dismissed".
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Apr 18, 2019 16:06:04 IST