Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur gestures while addressing a party workers meeting for Lok Sabha polls in Bhopal. (Source: PTI)

India Voters to Decide on ‘Morals’ of Terror Suspect Candidate

(Bloomberg) -- Indian law does not prevent the country’s ruling party from fielding a candidate accused of terrorism in the general election, a senior member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party told Bloomberg News.

Pragya Singh Thakur, a self-styled Hindu holy woman who has been charged by Indian law enforcement with a bomb blast in a Muslim neighborhood that killed six people and injured 100 in 2008, should be allowed to run for office, the BJP’s national general secretary Ram Madhav said.

There is no technical or legal hurdle preventing her from contesting and there is a belief she has been “falsely implicated,” Madhav said in a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait in New Delhi on Saturday.

"I can understand there are opinions about her candidature, and there are opinions within the party also, I don’t deny that," he said. "But what we are saying is: by law, technically there’s nothing that goes against her candidature."

"The moral issue should be left to the people," he added.

Candidate Crimes

The controversial candidate has fueled opposition accusations of hypocrisy and political opportunism against the Hindu nationalist BJP, which regularly condemns Pakistan-based groups for launching terrorist attacks on India.

India Voters to Decide on ‘Morals’ of Terror Suspect Candidate

While Indian political parties of all stripes have run candidates accused of serious crimes, including murder and kidnapping, no party has yet decided to field a person accused of terrorism.

“There may be no legal bar on Pragya Singh Thakur contesting the election, but it nonetheless marks a new moral low for Indian politics,” said Sadanand Dhume, a resident fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute. “On the world stage, India goes around proclaiming its principled opposition to terrorism. Well, guess what, the ruling BJP is trying to send someone still under trial for bombing innocent civilians to parliament.”

Madhav said the idea to run Thakur as a candidate in the state of Madhya Pradesh came from local party officials who thought she would mount a strong challenge against senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh.

The BJP has accused the senior opposition politician of using the term "Hindu terror" to describe Hindu radicals such as so-called cow vigilantes, who have beaten and killed Muslims and lower-caste Hindus over the suspicion they harmed cows, which are revered by Hindus. Singh has denied he coined the term.

The issue seemed to resonate among supporters of the Hindu nationalist BJP. And even Modi himself has said no Hindu has ever committed terrorism.

“She being the victim, she would be the real challenger for him. That is the local party’s view,” Madhav said. As for the “remaining moral questions -- let people decide.”

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