Nupur Sharma has rarely been away from the spotlight. On Sunday, the BJP suspended its national spokesperson “pending further inquiry”, over a week after the Mumbai Police registered an FIR against her for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through her remarks on Prophet Muhammad last month during a television news debate. India is facing a backlash from the Arab world over the remarks of Sharma and its Delhi media head Naveen Kumar Jindal, who was expelled.
Earlier in the day, the BJP distanced itself from the controversy, with its national general secretary Arun Singh saying the party was “strongly against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion”. He added, “The BJP does not promote such people or ideology.”
On Twitter, Nupur Sharma is followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Giriraj Singh, and Bhupendra Yadav; the BJP’s IT Cell head Amit Malviya; MPs Manoj Tiwari, Gautam Gambhir, and Parvesh Verma; and the party’s Delhi chief Adesh Gupta and Delhi in-charge Baijayant Panda.
The FIR in Mumbai was registered on May 28 based on a complaint by Irfan Shaikh, the joint secretary of Raza Academy’s Mumbai wing. It states that Sharma, in a news debate on the Gyanvapi issue, allegedly made abusive comments about the Prophet. While Sharma has denied saying anything abusive or “wrong”, she claimed that she started getting death and rape threats since the controversy broke out.
A graduate in economics from Delhi University’s Hindu College and LLB from the university’s Faculty of Law, Sharma, 37, also has a Master’s degree in law from the London School of Economics.
She started her stint in politics as a student leader and, in 2008, went on to win the post of Delhi University Students’ Union president. It was a time when the Congress’s student wing, the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), had a strong presence on campuses. So while Nupur managed to get the president’s post, the NSUI won all other posts. The most high-profile of her electoral contests, however, remains the 2015 Delhi Assembly election, when she took on Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal from the New Delhi seat. She lost by 31,583 votes.
Sharma, who has been a prominent face of the party’s youth wing, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, has held several positions in the party such as national executive committee member of the youth wing and member of the Delhi state executive committee. In 2017, she was appointed Delhi BJP’s spokesperson when then state unit chief Manoj Tiwari formed his team.
“Even though she was part of the Delhi team, her legal acumen, sound knowledge on national issues and bilingual skills saw her being sent for TV debates on national issues as well,” said a senior Delhi BJP leader.
Eventually, in September 2020, when JP Nadda set up his team, Sharma was picked as a national spokesperson. “Though she does go overboard sometimes, that happens with most people who appear on TV debates. That is the nature of the platform,” said another BJP leader. In April 2019, a heated argument during a TV debate on Azam Khan led to Sharma calling one of the panelists names.
On the latest row, Sharma told The Indian Express last week, “These were many edited videos that were circulated online. There was another video in which I was called obscene, idiot and whatnot. I request the honourable apex court to take a final call. Are we going to debate with civility or are we going to allow the imposition of Sharia laws?”
On Sunday, she unconditionally withdrew the controversial remarks and said it was never her intention to hurt anyone’s religious feelings.