BJP Likely to Pick Uma Bharti or Pragya Thakur to Take on Digvijaya Singh for Bhopal Seat


PTI, Apr 13, 2019, 11:37 AM IST

Bhopal: The names of Union minister Uma Bharti and Pragya Singh Thakur, who is facing trial in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, are doing the rounds as the BJP’s pick to take on Congress leader Digvijaya Singh in Bhopal.

Bhopal is a BJP stronghold since 1989 but Singh’s candidature, and the fact that the Congress won three out of the eight Assembly seats that comprise the Lok Sabha constituency in the 2018 state polls, has forced the saffron party to do a rethink, said sources.

Around 4.5 lakh of the 18 lakh voters in Bhopal are Muslims, they added.

Bharti or Thakur’s candidature against Singh could possibly see the poll battle turn into a bitter one with communal overtones, observers said.

Singh has routinely targeted the RSS-BJP and other constituents of the Sangh Parivar and is in turn labelled “anti-Hindu” by saffron hardliners, they said.

Bharti, who had earlier said she would not contest Lok Sabha polls, had won from Bhopal in 1999 defeating former Union minister Suresh Pachouri by over 1.68 lakh votes.

When contacted, Thakur said, “I am ready for the dharma yudh.” Though she added that the BJP hadn’t contacted her as yet or offered a ticket.

Thakur, a postgraduate in History, had worked with RSS-affiliate Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

Though she was given a clean chit by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, a special NIA court in December 2018 refused to discharge her from the case.

The court dropped provisions of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against her and she is being tried under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

She was granted bail by the Bombay High Court last year.

Six people were killed and over 100 injured when an explosive device strapped on a motorcycle went off near a mosque in Malegaon in north Maharashtra, on September 29, 2008.

In the 2018 Assembly polls, the Congress won three out of the eight Assembly seats and the BJP’s vote share in the other five seats had seen a slide.

Bhopal Lok Sabha seat comprises Berasia, Bhopal Uttar, Narela, Bhopal Dakshin-Paschhim, Bhopal Madhya, Govindpura, Huzur and Sehore Assembly seats.

Bhopal was won by BJP’s Alok Sanjar by a margin of over 3.7 lakh votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Meanwhile, Singh visited several temples as part of his Lok Sabha campaign.

Speaking to reporters in Sehore on March 29, Singh had said he did not use the phrase “Hindu terror”, but had used the term “Sanghi terrorism”.

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