Yoga guru Ramdev on Friday defended the Bharatiya Janata Party’s choice of Pragya Thakur as an election candidate and called her a nationalist, PTI reported. Ramdev claimed that Thakur was arrested in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case on suspicion and tortured in jail.

Thakur is the BJP’s candidate from Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency.

“It was gunaah ki parakashtha [the height of atrocities],” Ramdev said in Patna, Bihar. “You arrest a person just on the basis of mere suspicion and make her undergo physical and mental torture for nine years. The stress that she had to endure weakened her physically and she got afflicted with cancer. She is not a terrorist but a nationalist lady.” Ramdev was in Patna to accompany Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who filed his nomination for Patna Sahib Lok Sabha constituency on Friday.

On Thakur’s recent comments on former Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, Ramdev urged people to show her some empathy, NDTV reported. “We should show some empathy for the woman and try to understand her ordeal and the bitterness it must have given rise to,” he said.

Last week, Thakur had claimed that she had cursed Karkare leading to his death in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Thakur faced massive backlash for her statement, but BJP leaders had come out in support of her candidature. She later withdrew her remarks.

Ramdev also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Modi has only one agenda and that is to make India a superpower,” the yoga guru said. “He works 16 to 20 hours per day towards that objective. And he has single mindedness as he has no family or any other distractions.”

On the Opposition and Congress, Ramdev said he did not want the country to become a single-party democracy. “There should be space for Opposition,” he said. “But I must say that Modi appears like a mountain in front of whom all other challengers look like dwarfs.”