There may be rumblings in a section of the rank and file of the local Delhi BJP but in the party’s senior level, most leaders say that the suspension of the two spokespersons for their derogatory references to Islam that set off outrage in some Gulf capitals, was a “well thought-out decision.”
Leaders said the party was busy with its activities for the Modi government’s eighth anniversary celebrations “showcasing its Garib Kalyan programmes”, and both Nupur Sharma, its national spokesperson, and Naveen Kumar Jindal, head of the Delhi BJP’s media unit, had “dwelt” on their remarks against the Prophet and Islam for days “ignoring” warnings from the party’s central office.
“The party is clear on this, the Prime Minister created a narrative on development and the party’s role is to work on it and support it. Anything that hurts this process would be considered as indiscipline,” said a senior party leader.
“Being a spokesperson for the party for the national media, Nupur Sharma should know that the BJP sets its agenda and narrative around ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas, sabka prayas’. The controversy over her remarks and Jindal’s tweets has not only hurt our development agenda but also dented the image of the government and Prime Minister at the international level,” the leader said.
New Delhi faces a chorus of diplomatic outrage from the Gulf following the BJP spokespersons’ hate remarks seen by several countries as part of growing Islamophobia in India. While Qatar, Kuwait and Iran summoned India’s Ambassadors there, calls were given on social media for a boycott of Indian products.
Sources in the central BJP said while Jindal’s tweets came to the leadership’s attention later, it had given “enough warnings” and “cautionary advice” to Sharma, but she “went on and on, giving impetus to all kinds of elements to keep the issue alive”.
Sources said Sharma has been asked to be “cautious” and “avoid” commenting on any issue, at least for now. When asked about her claim that she had the support of senior BJP leaders and sections in the government, too, a senior party leader said: “There is nothing like that, if that were the case, would we have taken such swift action? The immediate priority is to put back on track what has been derailed.”
When reached for her comment, Sharma told The Indian Express she would only say that she “respected and accepted” the party’s action against her. “ I have grown up in this organisation. Whatever decision it takes, I cannot question it, because it’s more than my family,” she said.
The BJP leaders said the party had “thought about different aspects and consequences” before taking disciplinary action against the two leaders. While Sharma was suspended from the party and its responsibilities pending further inquiry, Jindal was expelled from the party’s primary membership.
“Every top leader is on the same page over the action on this matter,” said a party leader. Another BJP leader said, “The Prime Minister was very clear that the party cannot let it go unchecked. In every meeting, he has been telling the party leaders about his priorities and this (hate remarks) was nowhere in the list.”
On Sunday, just before the BJP announced its disciplinary action against the two spokespersons, the party had issued a statement, asserting that it “respects all religions” and “strongly denounces insults of any religious personality”. The statement, made by party general secretary Arun Singh, said: “The BJP strongly denounces insults of any religious personalities of any religion. The Bharatiya Janata Party is also against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion. The BJP does not promote such people or philosophy.”