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Polls 2008: Madhya Pradesh
BJP embraces Pragya’s charm
Our Roving Editor Man Mohan writes from Bhopal

Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, chief suspect in the Malegaon blasts, has now become BJP’s ‘poster girl’.

The alleged face of terror, ironically, has turned into an icon for Hindu religious outfits and the Sangh Parivar’s massive Assembly election campaign. As Madhya Pradesh is her home state, she belongs to Indore, it is helping them make her a poll issue. The state goes to polls on November 27.

In fact, the tales of two “sanayasans” — Pragya Thakur and Uma Bharati — are dominating the election scene in Madhya Pradesh, besides local issues. Young Pragya has overshadowed Uma Bharati, who in her initial years of joining politics in eighties was known as a “sexy sanayasan”.

The radiant and pious looking face of Pragya, dressed in saffron clothes, is attracting more attention of the people than Uma Bharti, chief of the Bharatiya Janshakti Party that she formed some years ago after her unceremonious exit from the BJP.

Although as a BJP Chief Minister, Uma Bharti ruled Madhya Pradesh for some time, her whimsical and tantrums are still upsetting people who were recently aghast on seeing her slapping a senior worker of her party.

In contrast, sadhvi Pragya’s quiet and confident face is making her popular among various sections of Hindus, especially women.

In its campaign, the BJP is describing the detention of Pragya in the terror-related cases as an attack on Hindus. A whispering campaign is showing results. “Look at Pragya’s face. Does she look like a terrorist?” asked Sunita, middle-aged wife of a shopkeeper in Arerya Colony.

“It is now a crime to proudly claim that we are Hindus,” said Raj Lakshmi, who works as a secretary in a private company here.

“How come poor Pragya is now being linked with every old blast case which took place in the Congress ruled states,” wondered L. Kumar, a young executive in a multi-national firm.

“Now, the Haryana Police has suddenly woken up to interrogate Pragya to ask her whether she was involved in the blast in the Samjhauta Express that goes to Pakistan,” Kumar said commenting that “tomorrow, some smart Congress leader may demand that the police should also check out her involvement in the Godhra train burning incident, which had triggered the communal riots in Gujarat.”

Such strong sentiments in favour of sadhvi Pragya may demolish the Congress dreams at many places, particularly in religious towns. Her pictures in newspapers are making her a darling of many Hindus, especially young women.

The BJP has understood the mood, and, that is why, it has opened its top guns to defend sadhvi Pragya. A word has gone round among the party and RSS workers to encash Pragya’s image at the polling booths.

The cue has come from none other than BJP chief Rajnath Singh, who was seen sitting near Pragya at “yajna” ceremony pictures, which appeared soon after her detention by Maharashtra’s anti-terrorism squad in the Malegaon blast case.

Rajnath Singh has taken exception to the Congress describing Pragya’s arrest as the “rise of Hindu terrorism”.

He says the BJP never linked any religion or a community with terrorism “as terror has no caste, religion and nationality”.

“Pragya should not be dubbed as a terrorist until the court finds her guilty,” says Rajnath pointing out that “Pragya has been forced to go through so many narco and brain-mapping tests. No terrorism suspect so far has been subjected to such a treatment.”

Referring to the arrest of Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit in the Malegaon blast case, the BJP has also started accusing the Congress controlled states’ police of maligning the Army in terrorism cases.

In Rajnath Singh’s opinion, “It looks like part of a larger conspiracy. It is sending a wrong message to our brave Army, which is in the forefront of fighting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast.”

The BJP’s campaign managers are hoping that people would reply to Pragya’s “false” detention through the weapon in their hand — the ballot paper — in the current Assembly elections and later in the Lok Sabha polls, which are due early next year.

“The Congress-led UPA government should not get into a misadventure by framing saints, sadhvis and political rivals,” says BJP’s general secretary Ananth Kumar, “as it is hurting the pride of Hindus”.

Senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Raghunandan Sharma says the Congress is trying to implicate Hindu outfits in the Malegaon and other terrorism related cases as the “hand” (Congress poll symbol) has only one agenda — to garner Muslim votes. Sharma says, “I know sadhvi Pragya personally and describing her as a terrorist is most disgusting”.

The Sangh Parivar has launched a campaign through mobile phone ring tones and SMS messages in favour of Pragya to apprise people about the UPA government’s “Vatican designs”.

The case against sadhvi Pragya Thakur may or may not stand the court’s scrutiny. However, for the time being, she has certainly become a “powerful weapon” against the Congress in the Assembly polls.



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