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India's BJP fields bomb blast accused to take on congress veteran

Last update: 18/04/2019
By Shakir Husain

NEW DELHI, April 18 (Bernama) -- The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded bomb blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur as an election candidate to take on opposition Congress party veteran Digvijay Singh in the high-profile Bhopal constituency in central India.

Thakur, 48, is an accused in the September 2008 bomb blast in a Muslim area of Malegaon city, about 270 kilometres from Maharashtra state's capital Mumbai.

Six people were killed and scores injured in the bombing that was seen as part of a larger terrorism plot.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has exonerated her in the bomb blast case but an NIA special court in December 2018 refused to acquit her, according to reports in India's media.

She is out on bail in the case and facing trial "under stringent sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in a Mumbai court," the Indian Express reported.

Thakur pleaded her innocence and alleged that she was tortured in prison.

"I'll contest the election and win. It's not a big challenge for me," she said, describing the contest for the Bhopal parliamentary seat, capital of Madhya Pradesh, as a "Dharma Yuddha" (crusade).

"The conspiracies against me have failed," she said.

Thakur's opponent is 72-year-old Singh, a former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and prominent Congress leader.

Singh welcomed her to the fray, saying he hopes that "she would like the calm, literate and cultured atmosphere" of Bhopal.

Known for making aggressive speeches, she formally joined the BJP on Wednesday.

"The BJP has been winning the Bhopal seat since 1989 and Thakur may very well defeat Digvijaya Singh but her nomination corrodes democracy," said the Indian Express in an editorial.

A prominent Supreme Court lawyer expressed surprise at the BJP's decision, saying "the court refused to discharge her, citing much critical evidence showing her full complicity in planning and execution of the terror attack at Malegaon."

But former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, whose BJP government lost power to the Congress in last year's state elections, believed the party has chosen a suitable candidate at the right time.

He rejected the terror charges against Thakur as baseless and an abuse of power under the previous Congress-led federal government.


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