Internally, Nupur Sharma has not lost the favour of the BJP leadership, and has several sympathisers in the party.

A picture of Nupur Sharma with PM Modi and Amit Shah in the background
news controversy Friday, July 01, 2022 - 13:18

BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s comments on Prophet Mohammad have proliferated into not just a diplomatic dispute for India but have also triggered a series of events domestically that have far-reaching repercussions. Nupur has been suspended by the BJP post the fallout, and one of the outcomes of the row is BJP censuring its spokespersons who had, on most news channels, been given a free platform to make caustic remarks about minorities. But this is just a brief reprieve from the cacophony that passes for debate on national television, and not a step in a positive direction by India’s ruling party, say sources.

After international embarrassment, with several Islamic nations lecturing India on religious tolerance, the BJP top brass has reportedly instructed all its spokespersons to not appear on any panel discussing communal issues, particularly about the Gyanvapi controversy. The ruling party was distressed not by the string of protests against Nupur Sharma at home but the bad press it received globally, leading to a diplomatic embarrassment. PM Modi has been awarded the highest civilian awards by at least half a dozen Islamic nations including Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia, and relations with several of these countries were strained due to the comments against the prophet.

In a bid to curtail the damage, BJP top brass had reportedly called for an urgent meeting after which a set of guidelines made its way to the media. BJP’s advisory included a ban on commenting on personal remarks on religion and religious heads, use of measured language, and focus on the party’s developmental programs. It also said that only ‘authorised’ spokespersons can appear on TV panels and that those appearing should read up on the topic of the discussion.

But sources say that the guidelines were not formulated now but had been in place, in theory at least, for a long time. They were reiterated in the meeting to indicate that it will not be ‘business as usual’, a source said.

The restraint however is not expected to last long — just till attention from the Nupur Sharma episode abates and the furore dies down. “We cannot stay away from discussing important campaigns for long. It is important that people know that we have not gotten off the Hindutva course. For example, when the court hearings on Gyanvapi begin, can we still refuse to discuss communal issues?” asked a party spokesperson. The caution is just till the international issue gets resolved, the spokesperson added.

Not just the BJP, several members of the Sangh Parivar too had felt the chain-reaction of the furore. Several organisations including the RSS were seen using moderate language and urging that, in public, their representatives need to take the communal conversation a notch lower, an insider told TNM.

But internally, Nupur Sharma has not lost the favour of the BJP leadership and has several sympathisers. A BJP leader said that many feel she has been made a scapegoat. The argument put forth by those defending her is that the alleged provocation (read comments on the object found at Gyanvapi being an old fountain and not a Shivling) was not reported upon and just Nupur Sharma’s reaction was blown out of proportion.

With PM Modi’s latest travel abroad expected to make amends, BJP leaders TNM spoke to hope that they can get back to their ‘bread and butter’, on discussing issues relating to Hindutva very soon.

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