Riyazuddin Ghayasuddin Deshmukh will fight against Pragya Singh Thakur in Bhopal
A former colleague of Hemant Karkare, the police officer who investigated the 2008 Malegaon blasts, has decided to contest the elections against Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal, an accused in the case, saying he was "hurt" by her comments on his former boss.
Riyazuddin Ghayasuddin Deshmukh, 60, has filed his nomination as an independent candidate.
"Seconds after she called Karkare sahab anti-national, I decided to contest the election against her," said Mr Deshmukh, who retired as Assistant Commissioner of Police in 2016.
As the chief of Maharashtra's anti-terror squad, Hemant Karkare had investigated Pragya Thakur in connection with the blasts in Malegaon two months before he died fighting terrorists during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Pragya Thakur, who is contesting the elections as a BJP candidate from Bhopal, had boasted that Hemant Karkare died because she had "cursed" him.
"I had told him you will be finished, and he was killed by terrorists in less than two months," she bragged at a press conference flanked by BJP leaders who clapped at the appalling words.
Her remarks faced massive backlash and she took back her words, saying he was "certainly a martyr."
Mr Deshmukh, who is from Aurangabad in Maharashtra, told news agency PTI he was "deeply hurt and devastated" by Pragya Thakur's remarks.
"I had worked as a sub-inspector under Karkare when he was the Superintendent of Police in Akola. He was my boss. He was brave, co-operative, encouraging and a gem of a person. He liked me very much and I respected him immensely," he added.
Mr Deshmukh said he filed his nomination on April 23. "I am not going to withdraw it at any cost," he said.
Pragya Thakur, Accused Number 1 in the blasts case, was given a clean chit by the National Investigation Agency 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 the trial is still on under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. She was granted bail by the Bombay High Court in 2017 on health grounds.
The election in Bhopal, where the main contest is Pragya Thakur and Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh, will be held on May 12. The results will be announced on May 23.
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