For Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon blast case and now BJP's candidate against Congress veteran Digvijay Singh from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, it has been a tumultuous journey.
Saffron-clad Thakur (48), with her trademark short hair and sporting a rudraksh mala, became the face of right wing extremism after being arrested by the Maharashtra Anti- Terrorism Squad in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. Currently she is out on bail.
On December 27, 2017, a special NIA court had dropped stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act charges against Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya,Sameer Kulkarni and other accused in the blast case.
Six persons were killed and 101 were injured when an improvised explosive device strapped on a motorcycle went off at Malegaon on September 29, 2008. Born in Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh, Thakur has had a long association with the RSS.
A post-graduate in history, she worked with the RSS student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Durga Vahini, women's wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
In view of Singh's image as an RSS-basher and the city's 4.5 lakh Muslim voters (out of the total 18 lakh-plus voters), the BJP decided to field a hardline Hindutva leader against the Congress leader, party sources said.
In the last assembly elections in 2018, the Congress won three of the eight assembly segments in the Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency. In the remaining five seats which the BJP won, there was a slide in the saffron party's victory margin.
"I am ready for a dharma-yuddh'," Thakur had told PTI last month, when her name started doing rounds as a probable BJP candidate.
"I am ready to take on Digvijay Singh if 'sanghatan' (organisation) asks me to do so," she had said, calling the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister an "anti-Hindu leader who called Hindus terrorists".
In April 2017, the Bombay High Court approved bail for Thakur, who the ATS had said was among the prime conspirators of the blast.