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Manmohan to Advani: why support ‘sadhvi’ Pragnya?

TOGETHER: A video obtained by the Anti-Terrorism Squad of the Maharashtra police shows ‘Sadhvi’ Pragnya Singh Thakur (far left) and godman Dayanand Pandey (far right) at a function in Bhopal on April 12, 2008. The event was organised by Sameer Kulkarni, member of the radical Hindu group, Abhinav Bharat, and its president Himani Savarkar (second from left).

TOGETHER: A video obtained by the Anti-Terrorism Squad of the Maharashtra police shows ‘Sadhvi’ Pragnya Singh Thakur (far left) and godman Dayanand Pandey (far right) at a function in Bhopal on April 12, 2008. The event was organised by Sameer Kulkarni, member of the radical Hindu group, Abhinav Bharat, and its president Himani Savarkar (second from left).   | Photo Credit: — Photo: Courtesy NDTV

Special Correspondent

Asks M.K. Narayanan to brief the BJP leader on facts

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has taken strong exception to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s stand supporting terror suspect ‘sadhvi’ Pragnya Singh Thakur and on Wednesday he picked up the telephone and spoke to the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, L.K. Advani, to convey his view.

Official sources confirmed that National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan has been asked by the Prime Minister to brief Mr. Advani about the facts of the case.

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said the Prime Minister told Mr. Advani that his statement demanding a judicial probe into allegations of police torture by Pragnya Singh and the stand taken by his party and its other senior leaders was not correct.

Apparently, Mr. Advani told him that he had merely reacted to the ‘sadhvi’s’ affidavit filed in court alleging that she had been tortured by her police interrogators.

Responding to this, the Prime Minister offered to share the facts of the case with Mr. Advani.

Dr. Singh followed up this offer by asking Mr. Narayanan to brief Mr. Advani and place the facts before him.

Seeks judicial probe

Since the arrest of Ms. Pragnya Singh and a serving Lieutenant Colonel, the BJP has charged the Congress with deliberately defaming the Army and the ‘sadhvis’ and ‘sants.’

On Tuesday, Mr. Advani broke his silence on the issue that had been taken up vigorously by his party president and the entire Sangh parivar. He issued a statement that while on his way to Raipur, he read Ms. Pragnya Singh’s affidavit. Asking for a judicial probe, Mr. Advani alleged that the ‘sadhvi’ had been “physically and psychologically tortured and abused in obscene language.”

The Prime Minister has told Mr. Advani plainly that the sadhvi’s allegation was contrary to facts.

“No excuse”

Separately, Congress party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, said that while he was not privy to what transpired between the Prime Minister and Mr. Advani, “ it was strange that a person aspiring to be prime minister of the country should stand up to support a terror accused.”

He added that Mr. Advani’s stand that he had made his statement on the basis of the ‘sadhvi’s’ affidavit, was no excuse at all, “since those accused of terror or other serious crime always level charges of manhandling by the police. That cannot be a reason for a senior leader of a national party to support a terror accused.”

Significantly, Mr. Singhvi, a lawyer by profession, pointed out that “in this case each allegation [made by Pragnya Singh] has been gone into by the court.”

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