Sadhvi Pragya Thakur joined the BJP on Wednesday and was named the Bhopal candidate soon after. The Congress and other opposition parties have condemned the ruling party for fielding a terror-accused, polarizing figure only for electoral gains.
Sadhvi Pragya, 49, on Thursday accused the Congress of falsely accusing her in the 2008 Malegaon blast in which seven people were killed and over 100 injured when a bomb went off near a mosque.
She was in jail for nine years and is out on bail on health reasons. A Malegaon victim's father on Thursday petitioned a court to stop her from contesting the election and said: "Sadhvi Pragya Thakur got bail on health grounds but is clearly healthy enough to fight elections in the crippling summer heat which means she has misguided the court."
Sadhvi Pragya Thakur will file her nomination on April 23 in Bhopal, which will vote on May 12. She repeated her allegations of torture at a press conference.
"When they took me away illegally, they kept me for 13 days. On the first day itself, they started beating me. When they used to hit me with a belt, the entire nervous system used to go blank.
They used to beat me day and night. They wanted me to say that I had a hand in the blast. They used to beat me till the early hours of morning. Those who beat me used to change but I would be their constant target," she said.
"They used to stop only when they feared that now blood would begin to come out from my hands. They used to bring hot water, mix salt in it and then they used to dip my hand in that so that they become soft and they can beat me again." She claimed that due to several narco, polygraph, and brain-mapping tests on her, she was diagnosed with cancer.
"The Congress has linked Hindus with terrorism, called them terrorists and harassed a woman. I am not recalling my pain before you but all I am saying is that no sister should undergo what I have faced."
To questions about her Congress rival Digvijaya Singh asking for proof of her harassment, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur said: "I don't say things without evidence. I am a living example of Congress' conspiracies and illegal activities. And if Digvijaya Singh is asking for proof for all this, he will be given proof. I will take my case to the public and even give evidence of my torture."
The saffron-robed history post-graduate worked with the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Durga Vahini, the women's wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad before she came to represent what the previous Congress-led UPA government termed as "Saffron or Hindu terror".
The term has been blasted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, who accuse the Congress of denigrating Hindus by linking them with terror.
Sadhvi Pragya, accused number 1 in the Malegaon case, was given a clean chit by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2015, but the trial court refused to let her off.
The NIA had said there was no evidence against her, but the court had said it was difficult to accept since her motorcycle was used in the blast.
The court dropped charges against her under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) but is trying her under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. She was granted bail by the Bombay High Court in 2017.
The results of the elections will be declared on May 23.