In the wake of the diplomatic storm over its former functionaries' comments on Prophet Muhammad, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has set new rules for its spokespersons and television panelists aimed at preventing the kind of backlash that unrestrained commentary from Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal caused, as per a report.
NDTV has reported that the BJP has directed its spokespersons and media officials to focus on the Union government's welfare work rather than the religious rhetoric.
Only authorised spokespersons and panelists will participate in debates and they have been warned against criticising any religion, its symbols, or religious figures, according to BJP sources cited by NDTV.
The report has come after over a dozen countries and influential Islamic entities strongly condemned the comments on Prophet Muhammad, with Qatar, Kuwait, and Iran taking the exceptional step of summoning the Indian ambassadors there and conveying the protest in-person through top officials. Qatar and Kuwait also conveyed their expecation of a public apology from the Government of India.
Not just governments but West Asian public is also angry at the comments on Prophet Muhammad, as there have been calls for India's economic boycott and reports have surfaced that Indian products have been taken off the shelves in some markets. Trends against India are also doing rounds on social media.
The BJP first issued a statement denouncing insults of any religious personality and saying it respects all religions. Then it suspended Sharma and Jindal.
The BJP TV panelists have been directed to keep their language restrained and not get agitated or excited, according to the NDTV report, which adds they have also been directed to "not fall into any trap" if provoked.
In a separate report, The Hindu has reported that the BJP is going through an internal churn at the moment as party leadership and the larger Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Parivar is reorienting to be less agitational and more focussed on government's work.
The Hindu reported that at a recent training exercise for the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), resource persons from the party insisted that rather than concentrating only on ground mobilisation, BJYM members should also look into academic reading, writing articles for newspapers, etc.
"It was the exact opposite of what we had been told in all the training programmes we had attended earlier," The Hindu quoted a BJYM member as saying.
The right-wing ecosystem outside of the BJP that has supported it since the 2014 general elections has also been critical of how Nupur Sharma was handled.
Twitter hashtags like #ShameOnBJP trended after Sharma’s suspension with many prominent BJP supporters, though not officially members of the BJP, being critical of her being 'abandoned' by the party, reported The Hindu. It added that the suspension only after international outrage also showed the party in bad light.
"Basically that, till it became an international issue, we were not going to take any action. This depicts insincerity with regard to the reasons behind the suspension and that we can be steam-rolled," said a senior office-bearer as per The Hindu.