India blast accused to contest polls with BJP

18 April, 2019 12:00 AM printer

New Delhi: Sadhvi Pragya, an accused in a 2008 blast that killed seven people and injured 100 others, has been given a ticket for the general elections from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, reports BBC. 

The Malegaon blasts, as they are widely known, saw two bombs fitted on a motorcycle explode in Malegaon, a Muslim majority town, in the western state of Maharashtra.

Sadhvi Pragya has been accused of conspiracy in the blasts.

“I have formally joined the BJP. I will contest elections and will definitely win. It won’t be difficult for me,” she told reporters.

Her candidature from Bhopal, the capital city of the central state of Madhya Pradesh, has caused an uproar in the country.

Sadhvi Pragya, a female Hindu priest, has made no secret of what her poll plank is going to be. 

Soon after her candidature was announced, she told reporters that she was ready for a dharma yuddh or religious war.

Madhya Pradesh is one of the states where the BJP lost the assembly elections to the opposition Congress party in 2018. With this choice of candidate, it looks as though they are banking on religious polarisation to consolidate the Hindu vote.

The news has been met with outrage, including from the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, who asked what the response would be if the shoe was on the other foot:

India’s Election Commission has called off voting in Vellore in the southern state of Tamil Nadu after officials allegedly found cash and other evidence suggesting that one of the candidates was bribing voters.

Vellore was scheduled to go the polls along with the state’s 38 other parliamentary seats on Thursday. It has around 1.4 million registered voters.

The candidate - Kathir Anand - is a member of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a regional party and the main opposition in the state.

Mr Anand has already asked the commission to revoke the order, alleging that the entire operation was “stage-managed” by the governing party, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).

While analysts and observers widely believe that bribing voters - with cash, liquor or freebies - is common during Indian elections, polls have rarely been cancelled because evidence is often hard to come by.

In this case officials say they found 11 crore rupees ($1.5m; £1.2m) at the home of a man whose brother-in-law works for DMK. They also found documents detailing the break-up of voters across the constituency and how the money would be distributed.

The party worker has since confessed that the cash belonged to him and that it was “meant to influence voters in favour of” Mr Anand, the Election Commission said in a statement.

They were able to trace the money to Mr Anand based on an earlier search of his home and a college his family runs.

Research suggests that bribes don’t actually win votes in India, but that doesn’t seem to stop political parties from trying anyway.