Pragya Singh Thakur -- Has She Become an Albatross for BJP?
Mumtaz Alam | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI, NOVEMBER 29— Within six months of joining the BJP and getting elected for Lok Sabha on its election symbol, Pragya Singh Thakur, who is out on bail in a deadly terror blast case after spending nine years in jail, seems to have become an albatross not only for the 40-year-old ruling saffron party of India, but also for its 95-year-old mentor RSS.
The 49-year-old saffron clad Pragya is Member of the Lower House of Indian Parliament from Bhopal of Madhya Pradesh. In the poll affidavit, she had declared that her self-profession is Bhikshaatan (begging) and she is “dependent on society” for livelihood. But BJP’s dependence on her to win the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat in the General Elections in May this year is now taking heavy price from the party.
In six months, she has twice hit national headlines by hero-worshipping the assassin of Father of the Nation – first on her campaign trail in Madhya Pradesh in May and now in the Parliament House itself. In Bhopal, she had said Nathu Ram Godse, who was hanged by the court for killing Mahatma Gandhi, “was, is and will always remain patriot.” And now on Wednesday when an opposition party leader was speaking in the Parliament and mentioning the name of Godse in the context of assassination of Gandhi, Pragya intervened and asked the leader “you cannot give example of a deshbhakt (patriot),” triggering huge uproar in the House and leaving the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi red-faced.
Not only opposition parties demanded her exit from BJP, there was huge anti-Pragya messages flooding the social media, seeking her removal from the party and Parliament. Consequently, within 24 hours of her controversial remarks, BJP has dropped her from Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Defence – the panel where she was appointed to as a member only last week – and it has also closed the doors of its parliamentary party meetings on her for the on-going Winter Session.
Back to April-May 2019 in Bhopal. Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on April 17. This was done as the party wanted to field her as its Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal pitting her against Congress heavyweight Digvijaya Singh. Fully aware of the fact that she was facing trial in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, she was in jail for nine years and was out on bail only on health grounds, BJP made her candidate. The decision earned the saffron party huge criticism with parties and civil society asking it to reconsider its decision. However, all criticism was stonewalled and ultimately Pragya won the elections with a huge margin.
Pragya is an Accused in 2008 Malegaon Blast Case
On September 29, 2008, terror blasts took place in Maharashtra and Gujarat. In Modasa of Gujarat, one person was killed in the blast. Two bombs went off near a mosque in Malegaon of Maharashtra, killing 10 people and wounding 80 others. For the Malegaon blast, bombs were fitted with a motorcycle.
The Anti-Terrorism Squad or ATS of Maharashtra, under the leadership of its then chief Hemant Karkare, began the probe into the Malegaon blast. The investigators zeroed in on the bike used for the blast and knocked on the doors of Pragya Singh Thakur as it was registered in her name. She was arrested in October 2008. Though she claimed that she had sold the bike to someone else earlier, she could not secure bail from court till next nine years. Meanwhile, Karkare, who had probed involvement of Hindu right groups in several blasts including Malegaon, Samjhauta Express, Ajmer Dargah and Mecca Masjid, was gunned down during the terror attack in Mumbai on November 26, 2008.
Since the BJP came to power in centre in May 2014, several blast cases in which Hindu right groups were accused, have taken U-turn. Several accused secured bail in the later years. Pragya also got bail on health grounds in April 2017. In the Malegaon blast case, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which took over the case from Maharashtra ATS, gave hear clean chit in 2015 and told the trial court it wanted to close the case. However, the court rejected the plea and consequently Pragya is facing regular trial till date. She has been asked to appear in the court at least once a week.
Born in Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh, Pragya is said to have had a long association with the Sangh parivar. She holds a master degree in history and has worked with the RSS’ student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) women wing Durga Vahini. It is said that her father Chandrapal Singh Thakur had also been actively associated with RSS.
Has Pragya Become an Albatross for BJP?
Following her Wednesday remarks calling Godse a deshbhakt (patriot), Opposition parties have unleashed heavy attack on the BJP demanding her dismissal from the party. Her remarks were so embarrassing for the BJP that its acting president JP Nadda and senior party leader and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had to publicly condemn her remarks. She was removed from the parliamentary defence panel and barred from the party’s parliamentary committee meetings during the on-going Winter Session. However, the Opposition parties are seeing it as half-hearted action and demanded the BJP to remove her from the party. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had condemned Pragya’s Bhopal statement and said he would never forgive her, is yet to speak on her latest hero-worshiping of Godse.
Meanwhile on Friday, succumbing to the huge pressure of the Opposition which announced to move censure motion against her, Pragya tendered apology twice in the Parliament.