'Fringe?': Opposition Unimpressed With BJP's Nupur Sharma-Naveen Jindal Move

Most opposition leaders had much to say about the timing of BJP's statement, its ability to ignore domestic protests, and its move to suspend and expel two leaders over comments against Prophet Muhammad only when Gulf countries registered their protest.

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New Delhi: As Bharatiya Janata Party suspended its national spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled its Delhi media head Naveen Kumar Jindal on Sunday after their remarks against Prophet Muhammad earned severe diplomatic backlash for India in the Gulf countries, opposition leaders were not impressed.

Nor were activists, journalists and commenters on social media, many of whom sought to highlight that BJP did not mention Nupur Sharma, Naveen Jindal, the nature of their remarks or even the word ‘Muslims’, who were the religious community offended by the said remarks.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen head and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi – who had earlier lodged a complaint that led to an FIR against Nupur Sharma as well as former BJP leader Qavi Abbasi of the Inquilab Party for allegedly threatening Sharma – said the suspension was a “sham.”

Owaisi also questioned the trigger for the suspension, noting the absence of action when domestic Muslims were outraged about the remarks.

“Twenty crore Indian Muslims’ religious beliefs were insulted. Rather than addressing their concerns, Modi et al were more afraid of a foreign backlash. Very unfortunate,” he tweeted.

Communist Party of India MP Binoy Viswam asked the BJP to teach its leaders to behave with responsibility.

“BJP must teach its leaders to behave and talk responsibly. Most of them talk under the ideological influence of Islamophobia. Politics of hatred is their guiding principle. Now, the country is paying the price for their retrograde statements on Islam. Shame on them,” the Left leader said in a tweet.

The Congress called the BJP’s move “placatory” and highlighted that it only came when the party’s government faced “threats from external powers”.

Senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram said on Monday that Sharma and Kumar were “not the original creators” of Islamophobia, adding that they were”trying to [be] more loyal than the king”.

“Domestic criticism did not impel the BJP to act against the two spokespersons. It was only the international backlash that pushed the BJP to take action,” the former Union minister tweeted.

Telangana minister K.T. Rama Rao issued a strong note of protest, tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and asking why the country should apologise to the international community for “the hate speeches of BJP bigots.”

The son of state chief minister and Telangana Rashtra Samithi head K. Chandrashekhar Rao, also noted Modi’s silence when MP and Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh lauded Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse.

Congress general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala accused the BJP of pushing India into a dark age of religious polarisation to “subserve its parochial political agenda in the short term”.

“Is the BJP sincere in course correcting? Is the BJP trying to atone for its immeasurable sins or is it more chameleon-like posturing?” he asked.

“BJP’s statement today saying, ‘strongly against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion’ is nothing but a blatantly counterfeit pretence and sham attempt at damage control,” Surjewala tweeted.

“None less than the Prime Minister and the BJP Chief Ministers, of the ilk of Adityanath, have introduced a new political vocabulary of State sponsored division of society, i.e. ‘Shamshan-Kabristan’, ’80 versus 20′, ‘bulldozer’,” he said, adding that the language of politics during elections no longer centres around phrases like development, employment, progress, education, agriculture, irrigation, electricity, trade and business and infrastructure.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the Union government calling BJP spokespersons “fringe elements” is a joke.

In a press release, a spokesperson of the Indian Embassy in Qatar said the Indian ambassador had a meeting at the Foreign Office, in which concerns were raised on the BJP leaders’ remarks. “The ambassador conveyed that the tweets do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the Government of India. These are the views of fringe elements,” the spokesperson said.

Reacting to the statement, Ramesh tweeted: “BJP has suspended two spokespersons after protests by Qatar government. This is what Americans call a good cop-bad cop routine. First, get your people to be obnoxious. Then act against them under pressure, to appear moderate. MEA calling BJP spokespersons ‘fringe elements’ is a joke!”

Several other commentators highlighted the problem of labelling Nupur Sharma as ‘fringe’ especially when she is followed by no less than the prime minister and a host of senior BJP leaders. Among those who tweeted were Alt News journalist Mohammed Zubair, who first brought Sharma’s and Jindal’s comments to light and has since been the target of rightwing Twitter’s vitriolic campaign.

Other Congress leaders, including social media department head Rohan Gupta, also tweeted against the BJP over the claim that wrongdoers were ‘fringe’.


“The way the BJP has adopted the phrase ‘Ghar Phoonk Tamasha Dekhna’ (making a spectacle after setting the house on fire), the head of every secular citizen of the country has bowed in shame. Now even non-resident Indians are coming under the grip of this fire. This fire should be doused immediately,” former Union minister Shashi Tharoor said in a tweet in Hindi.

Trinamool Congress’s Mahua Moitra also touched upon the “fringe elements” claim, also listing other alleged rabble-rousing activities by Sharma.

National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah said the BJP “suddenly waking up” to denounce the insult of any religious personality has nothing to do with having “offended” the sentiments of Muslims in the country.

In additional tweets, Abdullah sought to highlight the alleged fallacy of Jindal’s apology after expulsion.



Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav called the move by BJP a sham, asking the party to take a stronger step.

Without naming him, Akhilesh also gave the example of Dayashankar Singh, who after having been suspended for remarks against Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, had his suspension revoked and is now a Union minister.