After a month of dilly-dallying, the BJP has decided to field Pragya Singh Thakur, aka Sadhvi Pragya, from the high-profile Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency. She will take on Congress veteran and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh.
However, she was not the obvious choice for the party. First Uma Bharati and then Shivraj Singh Chouhan declared that they won’t contest from Bhopal. The party was in a dilemma when Pragya Singh Thakur’s name surfaced. Thakur boasted on Wednesday, “Hum Yeh Dharmyuddh jeetenge (We will win this crusade).”
Thakur came into the limelight in 2008 when she was apprehended for her alleged involvement in the Malegaon blasts. She was apprehended after a special court had framed charges against Thakur, Lieutenant-Colonel Prasad Purohit and five others for terror activities, criminal conspiracy, and murders.
Thakur belongs to Bhind district of MP where her father was an ayurvedic doctor. Her father who also was a member of the RSS and that brought her close to right-wing ideology very early in her life.
A tomboyish Thakur loved wearing jeans-shirts and riding motorbikes. She was an active member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) during her college days. She was also associated with Durga Vahini. Thakur completed her masters in History. She was soon noticed for her fiery temperament and inflammatory speeches. In 2002 she also formed an organisation, which according to her, used to 'rescue' girls who eloped with boys of other communities.
In 2007 Thakur joined the famous saint Swami Avadheshanand Giri. She established her ashram in Surat Gujrat and started promoting 'Hindutva' from thereon. This brought her close to many BJP leaders. During this period she used to visit Surat, Jabalpur, Indore and many other cities quite often.
Suddenly the scenario transformed when in 2008 Maharashtra ATS arrested her. A motorcycle registered in her name was used in the Malegaon blasts. A bomb kept in the motorcycle exploded near Hamidia Masjid in Malegaon, a communally sensitive textile town in the Nasik, northern Maharashtra.
This led the ATS to conclude she was actively involved in the conspiracy. She was also named in the 2007 Sunil Joshi murder case. Joshi was an RSS Pracharak from Dewas, Madhya Pradesh.
She blamed the then home minister P Chidambaram that he had coined a fake term 'saffron terrorism' and is framing her as the symbol of saffron terror. That was the time when BJP leader Rajnath Singh came to rescue her. In 2008 Singh had said, " If there is evidence to prove that saffron groups are involved in terror, the police should come out with it. Without evidence, there is no reason to term Pragya Thakur a terrorist."
Although after many twists and turns in the case the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court, dropped all charges against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and five others. The NIA said, "the prosecution against them is unmaintainable." Sadhvi had spent almost 9 years in jail before she was released.
Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur is known for her fiery speeches against Congress and its leaders. Once she called former UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, 'Italy wali Bai.' She also said she was falsely implicated in the case to endorse the bogey of saffron terrorism, a term coined by erstwhile Home Minister P Chidambaram.
Recently during Prayagraj kumbh, she established new 'Bharat Bhakti Akhada.' She also became Mahamandleshwar of the Akhada and christened herself to Sadhvi Purna Chetananand Giri.
BJP has granted her the ticket from a seat which is a saffron citadel. BJP never has lost Bhopal constituency since 1989. It is quite evident from this fact that if the party has decided to give the ticket to a new face like Thakur, it is only because of her right-wing credentials and the Bhopal elections are bound to be polarised.