Bhopal: Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, the Malegaon blast accused who was last week named Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Bhopal candidate, has had a sobering effect on her opponent, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh.
The irrepressible Congress leader, often described as the ‘Muslim face’ of the party for his near-obsession with the causes of the minority community, has undergone a significant image makeover. Some keywords have gone missing from his speeches — injustice to Muslims, Sanghi terror, religious fundamentalism, intolerance, and majoritarianism, to name a few.
And much of the credit for this can be attributed to Thakur.
‘Hindutva vs soft Hindutva’
Singh sees the Bhopal contest as one between Hinduism and Hindutva. He talks about his “personal relationship with God” and his faith in the Hindu religion, asserting that he wouldn’t hand it over to Hindutva — the Sangh conspiracy to attain political power.
Political observers are, however, of the view that the electoral contest is between ‘hardline Hindutva’ as symbolised by Thakur and the ilk and ‘soft Hindutva’ practised by temple-hopping Congressmen such as Singh, party chief Rahul Gandhi and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath.
For the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates, it’s a battle to gain electoral legitimacy for Thakur to counter the “propaganda” about the alleged “Hindu terror”, a term attributed to Singh who denies it. He maintains he used the term “Sanghi terror” and it was former home secretary and current Union minister R.K. Singh who coined “Hindu terror”.
The pitting of the Malegaon blasts accused against Singh was expected to generate fireworks. But that is not to be. The firebrand sadhvi has been tongue-tied. The BJP wants her to be “subjective” in her narrative about her ordeal in jail, but she mustn’t air her “objective” views about the happenings in the world outside.
Party sources said this was a part of the tutorial given to her by senior BJP leaders, including Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Prabhat Jha and others Sunday, after she triggered a controversy by attributing the killing of Mumbai anti-terrorism squad chief Hemant Karkare in the 26/11 terror attack to her “curse”.
A new Singh
There is a new avatar of Singh in Bhopal today: A devout Hindu who got Swami Subodhanand Maharaj to inaugurate his election office and took the blessings of Dwarka Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati before launching his Lok Sabha campaign.
He ends his speeches with “Narmada Hare”, in praise of holy river Narmada around which he had undertaken a six-month-long padayatra in 2017-18 stretching over 3,500 km. He has even promised to hand over a disputed piece of land claimed by the local party unit to the adjacent Ram temple.
Not that Singh was not a devout Hindu earlier. He has always been. But he would make headlines for other reasons then: By terming Delhi’s 2008 Batla House encounter as “fake”, claiming that Karkare received threats from RSS activists, and saying that injustice to Muslims is making terror outfits attractive to them.
His campaign speeches in Bhopal today are all about his vision for the development of the state capital, and how people should give him an opportunity as they elected BJP MPs from the constituency for 30 years but got nothing in return.
He berates the Modi government for demonetisation, the goods and services tax, and its failures to keep poll promises, but skips any mention of cow vigilantes or mob lynching incidents or anything about minorities. That’s despite the fact that Muslims constitute about one-fifth of the voters in Bhopal, though they form only 6.5 per cent of the population in Madhya Pradesh.
Also read: Appalling how many justified Pragya Thakur’s Karkare remark with twisted logic: IPS officer
Former chief minister and senior BJP leader Babulal Gaur believes the contest in Bhopal is “tough” but doesn’t see it taking a communal colour.
“Hindu votes have consolidated after Pragya’s candidature… It’s going to be a tough fight. No Hindu-Muslim voting except old Bhopal,” Gaur told ThePrint.
But the BJP has other plans. The party’s campaign theme is the victimisation of a Hindu saint purportedly by anti-Hindu parties and leaders.
“Pragya Didi sant hai, Diggi tera ant hai” was one of the slogans at Thakur’s roadshow in Bhopal Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Right-wing activists from all over the country are descending on Bhopal to join what is billed as the battle of ideologies — “between Hinduism and Hindutva”, as Digvijaya Singh put it.
The state BJP headquarters is teeming with Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal activists wearing saffron stolls, headgears and wristbands.
In the coming days, these activists are set to make the purported threat to Hindutva a battle cry in Bhopal. The big question is: Can the sadhvi provoke Singh enough to break his vow of self-restraint and development-centric narrative?
Bhopal is set to vote on 12 May.
Also read: Digvijaya Singh draws flak for calling Pulwama attack an accident
The Print may try hard to soft colour diggi but his past deeds and pap will continue to haunt him. His going in the Hindu sheers lap is acceptable but not of any BJP leader. As that is labelled as communilism. Hypocrite. But in a way, such articles helps hindu consolidatio.Keep it up.
The defeat of this fellow Digvijay is very important.Sadvi will do it. Hindu’ s should unite and kick out this anti hindu from politics.
By fielding a Hindutva terrorist , her remarks on the martyred Karkare are proof enough, Modi gave Bhopal on a platter to Diggy Raja.
May the best man win.
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