In the wake of the controversy sparked by the now-suspended BJP national spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s remarks against the Prophet, the BJP leadership at the central and state levels have asked their party leaders and spokespersons to refrain from commenting on any controversial or sensitive matter and stick to development issues in their public statements.
A senior official of the Madhya Pradesh BJP, who requested anonymity, said, “It has been clearly instructed now by our central party leadership to all to stick to developmental issues. He said, “BJP is working for ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas and sabka vishwas’, wherein sabka vishwas means winning the confidence of all sections of society. Our Indian Muslims are not some outsiders, they are part of our culture… their ancestors at some point in time were also Hindus.”
Referring to the recent UP Assembly polls clinched by the saffron party, he said, “The BJP is constructing the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, but the overwhelming support of the UP people for the party was for its developmental and welfare policies, be it Ujjwala scheme or Aawas Yojna. The BJP also enjoys the support of Muslim women. So why should one unnecessarily indulge in comments that hurt the religious sentiments of any community.”
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Another party leader said, “There are people who are taking advantage of the Nupur Sharma issue and it is hurting our efforts. Our senior leaders understand the international conspiracy over it planned by some elements, which we might be unaware of. So it has been conveyed to all to refrain from further comments on Nupur episode in order not to fuel the row further. We should instead focus on our development work.”
MP BJP president VD Sharma said, “The party’s position is very clear, which is to focus on the needs of the country. With our Prime Minister Narendra Modi developing a work culture where focus is only on development and zero tolerance for corruption, all our efforts are to take his vision of him forward.”
Sharma said the BJP is not against Muslims or any community. “BJP is the party which brought in the triple talaq law. It was meant to benefit Muslim women and today we enjoy an overwhelming support from them. During my days in the RSS, there were several Muslims who were part of our organization and we stood together raising slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. The nation comes first and we are all Indians. Our efforts have always been for the welfare of the people through our development policies. It is in this direction that will move forward.”
But many within the party feel that Nupur’s statement could have been “overlooked” by the leadership. A party spokesperson, requesting anonymity, said, “What Nupur said was in the heat of the moment, when we go for television debates, people from both sides indulge in such talks.”
Another spokesperson from Bhopal, however, said that the party spokespersons should always be temperate and restrained, saying “The person sitting on the other side would always try to provoke you during a debate, but being a spokesperson one has to be mindful of it. ”
Senior state BJP leaders maintained: “It has been clearly instructed to all within our ranks that divisive politics is not our agenda and that spokespersons and other leaders should refrain from indulging in communal talks, which is not our agenda and damages us”.
State BJP spokesman Hitesh Bajpai said, “Nupur Sharma and subsequent developments are being dealt with by the senior party and government functionaries. So, we should refrain from indulging in unnecessary communal talks and discussions. The focus instead should be on performance-centric development issues.”
In the same vein, another party spokesperson Neha Bagga said, “We respect and value all religions and support everyone.”
The Karnataka BJP has taken a stand against making any comments on the Nupur row. “No BJP spokesperson would participate in any debates on this issue in Karnataka,” BJP sources said.
“The Prime Minister and the entire Government of India are disturbed by this kind of immature, amateurish, irresponsible comments made by the BJP spokespersons (Nupur and expelled Delhi media head Naveen Jindal). Damage control has already been done by the Government of India. Generally speaking, no one should speak against any religious symbols or leaders. The BJP per se does not agree with what they have said and so they have been sacked,” a BJP leader said. “We are not focusing on the issue, we want to steer clear of it. It has been decided that we must not speak about it,” said an official of the state BJP’s communication cell.
The UP BJP rank and file did not get any written guidelines from the central or the state leadership over the controversy around Nupur’s remarks. But when communal violence erupted
in Kanpur, the party asked state leaders and spokespersons not to react on the Kanpur incidents. In a verbal communication to them, the party asked them to remain non-committal and silent over the Nupur row.
A section of UP BJP leaders, however, believes that political and religious personalities from various parties and sects often make “stronger remarks about other faiths than Nupur”. “It is just a matter of time. Her de ella (Nupur’s) remark de ella was blown out of proportion to create a controversy and target the BJP and the government, ”said a BJP leader.
However, another party leader said, “If her (Nupur) remark has hurt someone’s religious sentiments, then it was certainly wrong. And that was why the party took action against her. If any other leader will make such remarks in future, party will take such strong action in that matter too.”
A state BJP leader said the central party leadership has issued a statement but no one has spoken in public on the Nupur episode, which is also being followed by state leaders.
The UP BJP is especially cautious about the row in view of the temple-mosque disputes in
Varanasi and Mathura, which have been pending in various courts.
–With inputs from Lalmani Verma in Lucknow and Johnson TA in Bengaluru