Pragya Singh Thakur, the Bharatiya Janata Party nominee from Bhopal, is proving to be a holy terror – pardon the pun – for her minders during her political debut.
Principal minder, former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, forced by party president Amit Shah to glad hand the terror accused candidate as punishment for refusing to contest from Bhopal, is at his wits end.
Chauhan, who is mild-mannered and avuncular, was forced by Shah to “police” Thakur’s introductory interviews with the national press after she let fly that she had “cursed” 26/11 martyr and Ashok Chakra awardee Hemant Karkare and willed his death. He was the chief of the anti-terror squad which had chargesheeted Thakur on her involvement in the 2008 Malegaon blasts. The fact that Pragya was, in effect, hailing his murder by the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba terrorist Ajmal Kasab became a major source of embarrassment for the BJP, which forced her to take back her damaging statement.
The Madhya Pradesh unit of the BJP, which had vehemently opposed Thakur’s nomination, wanted to tell Shah “we told you so” after the outrage but then that is not how the party works.
Instead, sources say, Shah blamed them for allowing the “anti-national” media to fool the “guileless” ‘sadhvi’. Two days ago, when TV channels were doing serial “exclusives” with her, Chauhan was present, haplessly trying to provide her political directions. However, sources told The Wire, his pleas fell on deaf ears. The moment he gave her instructions that she did not like, the ‘sadhvi’ would go in to a “trance”. Coming out of the trance, she curtly told Chauhan that she was in communication with “Thakurji (god)”, and had his blessings to go ahead and say exactly what she pleased.
Chauhan retired hurt. After all, what is a three-term chief minister’s advice worth as a minder when his ward has a hotline to god?
During the course of another interview, Chauhan reportedly tried to tell her to focus on the improvements she would make to Bhopal – only to have Thakur dash off to the cow shed, with TV cameras in hot pursuit, to share her wisdom on how fondling a cow can cure a person’s blood pressure. She then proceeded to give her hot take on “gau mutra”, or cow’s urine, prominently displayed next to her chair, as a cure for cancer.
A speechless Chauhan then asked TV editors if they could edit out some particularly embarrassing portions. Thakur promptly ticked him off, saying that her answers were guided by “Thakurji”.
Pragya joins extremist-head-priest-turned-UP-chief-minister Adityanath as the so-called “fringe” – a favourite construct of op-ed writers – becomes the core of the BJP and the larger Sangh parivar.
The fielding of Thakur – with Modi and Shah then jeering at the opposition and saying this was punishment for them coining the term “Hindu terror” – shows just how toxic the BJP has become.
The RSS wanted Thakur to be fielded as a nod to assuage the true believers and corral hardcore BJP voters. But the bigger question is, who is the bigoted true believer that the Sangh is always trying to pander to? Which base wants extremists like Adityanath and Thakur? Modi appointed Adityanath as chief minister India’s most populous state – the voters did not choose him. The RSS forced the candidature of terror-accused Thakur – there was no call from Bhopal.
Even earlier, Thakur’s predecessor, ‘sadhvi’ Uma Bharti won Madhya Pradesh from the Congress. But she proved to be such a disaster as an administrator that she was hastily gotten rid off and Chauhan, a much more mainstream politician, replaced her.
Several senior BJP leaders whom I spoke to for this piece seemed extremely uneasy with Thakur’s candidature and her outrageous comments. “The RSS has crossed the rubicon with this. There is no going back from Yogi [Adityanath] and Pragya. Mohan Bhagwat and Bhaiyyaji Joshi will also be devoured by the extreme monsters they have created,” one of them said.
The leader, a minister in the Modi government, vehemently emphasised that Adityanath, who is known for his fiery hard Hindutva speeches, is no longer finding an audience in UP. He is now travelling the country as a mascot for hard Hindutva.
The projection of hard Hindutva as the only plank for 2019 was a joint decision by the RSS and Modi-Shah. The realisation that Modi could not possibly run on his track record in office ensured that all bets were placed on the hard Hindutva plank.
What this has ensured is that the new crop of leaders whom the Sangh has birthed will now be the leaders of lynch mobs. The mukhhota, or mask, is gone.