The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party yesterday announced it will field Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur accused of involvement in a deadly 2008 bomb blast in the ongoing national election.
Thakur, a 48-year-old female monk, is out on bail while she faces charges related to the attack in Malegaon, Maharashtra, that killed six people.
She announced yesterday that she will stand from Bhopal constituency in Madhya Pradesh.
Her main rival is the outspoken and controversial Digvijaya Singh, a senior Congress leader.
Thakur, a firebrand speaker, made national headlines after the blast close to a mosque in Malegaon that also injured around 100 people.
She was arrested shortly after the attack and was described by authorities as a leading plotter.
Indian law allows candidates facing court cases to run up until the time of any conviction.
“All conspiracies against me have failed. I am an ascetic monk and will ensure justice and respect for my country,” Thakur said, clad in traditional saffron clothes, at a press conference in Bhopal.
“I am confident, fully confident. I am ready for politics and (this) religious war,” she added, flanked by regional party leaders.
The announcement of Thakur’s candidature was made hours after she joined the BJP and said that she would “fight against those who are conspiring against the nation.”
“I will bring honour to saffron,” she said soon after her name was announced by former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
She said people who insult religion are weak by nature.
Chouhan said Thakur will work for the welfare of the nation, providing a better life to the people, and make national security of the country stronger.
“I welcome Sadhvi Pragya ji in Bhopal. Hope you enjoy the civilised atmosphere of this delightful city,” Singh tweeted.
Chouhan told reporters that the party has made a strategy to ensure Thakur’s victory from Bhopal.
Bhopal’s sitting BJP MP Alok Sanjar welcomed the decision, saying the party members would support Sadhvi and work hard to ensure victory for her.
Sanjar said the charges against Thakur were false.
“A woman was harassed. Now it’s time for revenge,” Sanjar told reporters.
Thakur was released on bail in 2017 after spending nine years in jail and has had one charge against her dropped but still faces other charges in the ongoing trial.
Her candidacy in Bhopal – a BJP stronghold constituency in a key heartland state – is expected to polarise local voters.
Hindu nationalists accuse her opponent Singh of using the term “saffron terror”, which they view as objectionable, to refer to acts of violence by right-wing extremists targeting areas with large Muslim populations.
India’s election is taking place in seven phases, with voting in Bhopal not scheduled until May 12.
Results in the vote, the world’s largest, are expected on May 23.
The election is seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking a second term from the country’s 900mn voters.
The opposition Congress Party has tried to undermine support for Modi by pointing to his lacklustre economic performance in the last five years.
The BJP meanwhile has focus on Modi’s key social schemes and a hardline nationalist stance.
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