After a prolonged legal battle, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, faces an intense political fight after the BJP nominated her as party's candidate against Congress veteran Digvijay Singh from the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat.
Saffron-clad Thakur (48), sporting trademark short hair and a rudraksh mala, became the face of right-wing extremism after being arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad in the Malegaon blast case in 2008.
Six people were killed and over 100 injured in the blast.
After taking over the case in 2016, the NIA filed a charge sheet giving a clean chit to the Sadhvi and three others- Shyam Sahu, Praveen Takalki and Shivnarayan Kalsangra - saying it found no evidence against them and they should be discharged.
The NIA court absolved Sahu, Takalki and Kalsangra but said the Sadhvi will have to face charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other sections of the IPC including murder and criminal conspiracy.
Born in Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh, Thakur has had a long association with the RSS.
A post-graduate in history, she worked with the RSS student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Durga Vahini, women's wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Sources said the BJP decided to field hardline Hindutva leader from Bhopal considering two factors: the Congress candidate in the seat is viewed as an RSS-basher and of the 18 lakh-plus voters in the city, 4.5 lakh are Muslims.
In the 2018 assembly elections, the Congress won three of the eight assembly segments in the Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency. In the remaining five seats that were bagged by the BJP, there was a slide in the saffron party's victory margin.
"I am ready for a dharma-yuddh," Thakur had told PTI last month, when her name started doing rounds as a probable BJP candidate.
"I am ready to take on Digvijay Singh if sanghatan (organisation) asks me to do so," she had said, calling the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister an "anti-Hindu leader who called Hindus terrorists".
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