Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday sought to defend the Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to field terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal in the Lok Sabha elections. He said Thakur’s candidature was a symbol to answer all those who demeaned a great civilisation and one that will prove costly to the Congress.

Thakur, who joined the BJP earlier this week, is facing charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other sections of the Indian Penal Code in connection with 2008 Malegaon blasts, in which six people died and 101 were injured. The Bombay High Court had granted bail to her in April 2017, noting that she had been in jail for more than eight years and was suffering from breast cancer.

Referring to the Samjhauta Express blast verdict, the prime minister claimed the Congress had defamed a “5,000-old culture that believes in Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam”. “A civilisation, a tradition that has promoted the idea of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the world is one family) for the last 5,000 years was branded as terrorists by some,” Modi said in an interview to TimesNow. “Sadhvi Pragya’s candidature from Bhopal is a symbol to answer all those who did this and this symbol will prove costly to the Congress.”

Several BJP leaders have hit out at the Congress, claiming that the party had floated the theory of “Hindu terror” in the Samjhauta Express blast case. On March 21, Arun Jaitley had said the term “Hindu terror” was coined to give a bad name to the “otherwise liberal majority community in India”.

“When in 1984 Indira Gandhi died, her son had said ‘when a big tree falls the earth shakes’,” Modi said on Friday. “Thereafter, there were thousands of Sikhs who were massacred. Was it not terror? Was it not terror unleashed by a few people? Despite that he [Rajiv Gandhi] was made prime minister and the neutral media never asked a question like it is doing now.”

Those who were identified by eyewitnesses in the 1984 anti-Sikh violence case, were made legislators and cabinet ministers, Modi said, adding that “one of whom was recently made the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh”.

Congress leader Kamal Nath had been questioned by the Nanavati Commission in connection with the 1984 anti-Sikh violence. He was absolved of involvement due to lack of evidence. As many as 2,733 people had died in Delhi alone following the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.

The prime minister further said. “Should the Amethi and Rae Bareli candidates who are out on bail not be questioned? But when a Bhopal BJP candidate is out on bail and is fighting elections, there is a huge hue and cry. A woman, a sadhvi was tortured like this, no one raised a finger.”

Thakur on Thursday had claimed that she was tortured by officials when she was in jail for her alleged role in the Malegaon blasts case.

Modi accused the Congress of building a false narrative for propaganda. “In Gujarat, whatever encounters used to take place, they would prepare a script accordingly. In Judge Loya case, he died a natural death but the same modus operandi was used to build a narrative that he was killed. The same modus operandi was followed to build false narrative using videos around EVM and demonetisation. This is their modus operandi.”