Does the BJP even care?

Pragya Thakur, who has been fielded by the BJP as its candidate for the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, has justified the party’s faith in her by the most outrageous statements about various issues. Though the BJP has fielded many candidates who are known for their contempt for and defiance of secular and democratic norms, the nomination of Pragya was the most brazen act, intended to convey a clear message. She is an accused facing trial on charges of terrorism for an act that took the lives of many people. It is argued that she is innocent till she is proved guilty by the court. But, even after her nomination, the special NIA court in Mumbai, where her trial is taking place, has said that there is prima facie evidence against her, though the court dismissed the plea for a bar on her contesting on the ground that elections did not come under its ambit. 

The BJP does not seem to think that her insult to the former chief of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, Hemant Karkare, was wrong. She said the officer, who was martyred fighting terrorists, died because of her curse. Though the party distanced itself from the comment, it continues to support her. She has made other controversial statements also which show how retrograde her thinking is. She has said that she had personally participated in the destruction of the Babri Masjid. This was to reinforce her image as a Hindutva warrior, as a role in the destruction of the masjid is a badge of honour for the Sangh Parivar extremists. The most outrageous but ridiculous statement was that she was cured of cancer after she drank gaumutra (cow urine). The doctor who treated her for cancer has explained that she had to undergo three surgeries to manage her cancer. The image of the person that comes through these pronouncements is of an extremist and a fanatic, given to the most irrational beliefs and unashamed of propagating them loudly. 

BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah, have defended Pragya’s candidature. When a terror accused is fielded as a candidate, it amounts to accepting and legitimising terror, whatever be the legal position about innocence and guilt. The obvious message is that terrorism, if it is indulged in by those who promote hardline Hindutva, might even be rewarded. This was already clear from the NIA’s soft-pedalling of the cases against Pragya and others accused of terror. It has again been confirmed by Pragya’s candidature, and she is living up to the party’s expectations of her with her demonstrations of little respect for those who died fighting terrorists, democratic norms and science and rationality. 

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