Bhopal: The 49-year-old Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, who was fielded as the BJP candidate from Bhopal right after she took up the party’s membership formally, began her campaign on Thursday on a sentimental note. She described the alleged police torture she was subjected to after being branded as a “Hindu terrorist” involved in the Malegaon bombing.

Earlier, a petition was filed in the court to prevent her from contesting elections.

Addressing party cadre, Sadhvi Pragya said in the Huzur assembly constituency, “First I was arrested illegally and kept in custody for 13 days. They would beat me with thick belts in the custody. It was not easy to bear with it. My whole body would swell and turn numb. They would thrash me night and day.”

“I am not relating to you my woes,” the sadhvi continued, “but I pray no woman has to ever go through this. While thrashing me, they would hurl abuses at me.”

The sadhvi said, “They wanted me to confess I was involved in the bombing and that I had killed Muslims.”

“Nights would turn days, and my tormentors would change according to the policemen’s shifts, but the one at the receiving end would be just me,” Sadhvi Pragya said.

My whole nervous system was wrecked by the torture,” the BJP candidate from Bhopal said.

It was noticed during her narration that the audience turned emotional too. This was her first public meeting after her nomination on Wednesday.

The sadhvi continued: “They would soak my hands in saline water and thrash them to make them soft. After a while, they would hit the hands again.”

BJP MLA from the constituency Rameshwar Sharma said, “The allegations against her are not serious. She was framed. The Congress defamed the Hindu faith and its saints. ‘Saffron terror’ was Digvijaya Singh’s contribution. Bhopal is a city of patriots. The sadhvi will win here. Her pain will create a wave here.”

Pragya Thakur was arrested in the case of the Malegaon blasts of September 2008. She has been out on bail since April 2017. In Bhopal, she is contesting against Congress veteran and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh.

Congress spokesman Abbas Hafeez said, “BJP had to change their face here. It is evident that the previous MP did not do any work. The people have decided that they would like to hear about development alone. they are concerned about their children’s future and jobs. If the election was over emotive issues, 70% votes would not go against them. We will talk about development alone.”

‘The belt and the policeman would change with shifts. The one at the receiving end would stay a constant: Me’

The Bhopal Lok Sabha seat has seen the BJP win continuously since 1989. The reaction of the voters here, however, is mixed. Some young voters said they did not think the sadhvi should have been given the ticket. “They could have found someone else,” a first-time voter said. Another that our correspondent spoke to said the BJP should have waited for her to be freed of all charges.

Others said Digvijaya faces several allegations, too, although they have not been proved. BJP is winning from Bhopal, Digvijaya Singh stands no chance.

The differences in voting preferences are clearly along religious lines in this city.

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