Pragya Singh Thakur, needs a full-time firefighting department on her campaign trail. Exasperated party leaders are sweating it out to defend her frequent inflammatory remarks. She has had to retract on her statements or her party had to do that on her behalf in the past one week since she was fielded to face Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh.
On Thursday she called Digvijaya Singh a terrorist. There was a somersault the next day at the party’s insistence. The Election Commission took note of her statement. She has already been warned over other such remarks.
A full complement of the senior party officials such as Prabhat Jha (former state unit president) and party vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe have been deployed to counsel her on public speaking. The party has clamped down on interviews.
Reporters seeking to interview her are told to send the questionnaire in writing. Obviously either the answers are whetted or someone else writes the answers on her behalf. But such insulation is not enough. Her party members are struggling to convince the audiences about her merit as a political leader.
The Election Commission has earlier ordered an FIR to be filed against her over the boast that she climbed the Babri Mosque structure to pull it down and clear the way to build the Ram Temple.
The latest issue cropped up with the party leader Fatima Rasool Siddiqui politely declined to canvass for her saying it would be difficult to address the audience in Sadhvi’s favour. Fatima had polled a good 56,000 votes and can ill-afford to overlook the sentiment in the constituency.
The party has remained in damage-control mode. It is yet to respond to the new crisis.
Fatima, a dentistry student who contest the November assembly election on the BJP ticket against the Congress heavy-weight Arif Aqueel, says she had joined the party on the call of former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh, who has good connect with the Muslim community. She felt comfortable in the party in spite of elements with communal bent of mind.
Fatima’s father, late Rasool Ahmed Siddiqui was a senior Congress leader who served as a minister for two terms. She still feels no need to quit the party. But campaigning for Sadhvi is a different proposition.
“I don’t believe in hurting religious sentiments. That is why I won’t be able to work with her unless she apologises for her remarks”, says Fatima.
Pragya Singh had said she was proud of her role in the destruction of Babri mosque. “We had removed a blot from the country. We had gone to demolish the structure. I climbed atop the structure and broke it and I feel extremely proud that God gave me this opportunity”. Pragya’s defence is that she made the statement before being nominated as a candidate.
Fatima’s statement that “we do have good candidates like Alok Sanjar, Surendra Singh and Vishwas Sarang” is being interpreted differently.
The BJP had earlier appealed to party workers to work for Pragya Singh Thakur. Senior party leader Vishwas Sarang hailed her as a symbol of nationalism.
Vishwas Sarang says, “Pragya is our symbolic answer to those who wanted to break the country, those who had described Hindus as terrorist. We all will work together so that she can win”.