Agencies | New Delhi
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
India’s ruling political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on Sunday suspended national spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled BJP Delhi media officer Naveen Kumar Jindal for their controversial comments on the Prophet Muhammad.
While Sharma was suspended from the party pending an investigation, Jindal was ousted from the party.
The action, which came shortly after the BJP issued a statement decrying the insult to any religious figure, is believed to be a consequence of the party’s growing unease over statements made against Muslims.
The BJP leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was upset with Sharma’s statement during a televised debate.
Twitter was abuzz with calls for an anti-Indian boycott of the Arab world, including from the Grand Mufti of Oman.
Ahead of the Iranian foreign minister’s first-ever trip to New Delhi next week, Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the Indian ambassador to Tehran for what state media called an “insult to the prophet of Islam in an Indian TV show”.
Besides Iran, Qatar and Kuwait had also summoned India’s ambassadors and handed them protest notes over what the Gulf countries called a categorical “rejection and condemnation” of the controversial remarks of a BJP leader against the Prophet Muhammad.
Seeking to defuse a diplomatic row, a spokesman for the Indian Embassy in Qatar said that “The Ambassador indicated that the tweets in no way reflect the views of the Government of India. They are the views of marginal elements”. The spokesperson said Indian Ambassador to Qatar Deepak Mittal had a meeting at the Foreign Ministry where concerns were raised about some offensive tweets from individuals in India disparaging the religious figure.
“You have expressed opinions contrary to the party position on various issues, which is in clear violation of Rule 10 (a) of the Bharatiya Janata Party Constitution. I have been instructed to inform you that pending further investigation, you are suspended from the party and from your responsibilities/assignments, if any, with immediate effect,” reads the notice to Sharma by the BJP Central Disciplinary Committee.
In a letter to Jindal, Delhi BJP Chairman Adesh Gupta wrote that his take on social media to incite communal disharmony was contrary to the fundamental thinking of the party. “You worked against party ideology and politics. Therefore, your main membership ends with immediate effect and you are also suspended from the party,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sharma and Jindal posted a message apologizing for their comments and asking for police protection.
Along with the fallout of unease over the controversial statements, the action is also interpreted as an attempt to rein in leaders who “cross the official party line on sensitive issues” and often embarrass the party. BJP sources said the strict action against Sharma and Jindal is seen as an exercise in damage control.