The BJP has suspended its spokesperson Nupur Sharma after her comments on national TV regarding Prophet Mohammed evoked a tough reaction from Gulf countries. After Sharma's derogatory comments became viral, nearly 15 Gulf nations condemned the BJP government for the statement by its former spokesperson. The party reacted by suspending Sharma and Navin Jindal. Following outrage, Sharma has apologised for her statements and claimed they were not made to hurt anyone's feelings but a reaction to defamatory comments against 'Lord Shiva'.
However, this is not the first time that the party was left red-faced due to controversial remarks by party leaders or allegations of hate speech. From divisive and communal or defamatory comments to sexism and racism, BJP leaders have often found themselves on the fag end of public outrage for their insensitive and tone deaf comments.
Here are five incidents when statements by BJP leaders led to a row:
'Goli Maaro Saalo Ko'
Junior Finance Minister Anurag Thakur stoked controversy in January 2020 when he chanted the divisive slogan 'Desh ke gaddaro ko, golo maaro saalon ko' at a pre-election rally in Delhi's Rithala. The slogan eventually became a war cry for many supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Protests who used it to attack anti-CAA and NRC protesters. The sloganeering by Thakur was instantly criticised with many claiming that the remarks were divisive and had the potential to stoking violence. Following the incident, the Eclection Commission sent a show cause notice to Thakur, in which it stated that Thakur had made statements that had the " potential of disturbing communal harmony and aggravating the existing differences between social and religious communities" and were in violation of the Model Code of Conduct and Representation of the People Act, 1951. Thalur responded by claiming that he had only said the first part of the slogan (Desh ke gaddaro ko), insinuating that it was the crowd that chanted 'goli maaro saalo" in response. However, several video footages of Thakur at the rally show him chanting the slogan lucidly and leading the crowd on to chant the slogan as well.
The slogan preceded the February 2020 Delhi riots violence following which critics and victims claimed Thakur's statements led to incitement of communal violence. Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat also sought an FIR against Thakur and BJP's Parvesh Mittal over the alleged hate speech.
Protesting Farmers Are 'Mawali'
BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi left the party red-faced after she referred to protesting farmers as 'mawali' in amid the protests against the government's three contentious farm laws in July last year. Referring to the protesters who had been demonstrating in several spots around Delhi's borders as well as other states, Lekhi had said, “You are calling them farmers again. They are mawali.” Lekhi was responding to questions regarding alleged attacks on journalists by alleged 'farmers' and the January 26, 2021 violence in the capital amid the then ongoing farmers' protests. The comments led to outrage with then Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh demanding the immediate sacking of Lekhi and accusing her of 'defaming' farmers. The MP later had to apologise for her comments and claimed on Twitter that her words had been twisted.
'Go home and cook'
Earlier this year in May, the BJP's Maharashtra unit chief Chandrakant Patil was caught in the eye of political slugfest after he made sexist comments against NCP leader Supriya Sule. Patil, who was speaking at a BJP protest over the OBC reservation issue, hit out at Sule, saying, "Why are you even in politics, just go home and cook. Go to Delhi or to a cemetery, but get us the OBC quota. Despite being a Lok Sabha member, how come you don't know how to get an appointment with chief minister." The sexist comments cause an uproar and severe criticism and the state women's commission also intervened in the matter. Patil eventually apologised for his comments.
'Nathuram Godse was a patriot', 'Cursed' Hemant Karkare
In 2019, BJP leader Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, courted controversy after she defended Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, as a "patriot". "Nathuram Godse was a deshbhakt, is a deshbhakt and will remain a deshbhakt. People calling him a terrorist should instead look within. Such people will be given a befitting reply in these elections," she said. As the comments went viral, the BJP distanced itself from the comment. “The BJP does not agree with this statement. We condemn it. She should apologise publicly for this statement,” BJP’s GVL Narasimha Rao told ANI in an interview. Following backlash, Sadhvi Pragya apologised and stated that Gandhi's sacrifices cannot be forgotten.
Pragya, who is known for making controversial statements, d also claimed that the Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who had died fighting terrorists during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, had died because she had 'cursed' him for arresting her in connection with the Malegaon blasts. Following the comment, the BJP stated that the remark was Pragya's 'personal' comment and did not reflect the party's view of Karkare, whom it considered a martyr.
'If we were racist, why would we have South India?'
BJP leader Tarun Vijay had to apologise for his racist comments after he tried to defend India against racism allegation by claiming Indians were accepting of 'South Indians'. Vijay was speaking at a Televised discussion over a slew of attacks on Nigerians and South Africans living in Delhi in 2017.
"If we were racist, why would we have the entire south (India)... which is you know, completely Tamil, you know Kerala, you know Karnataka and Andhra. Why do we live with them ...We have blacks, black people around us. You are denying your own nation, you are denying your ancestry, you are denying your culture," Vijay had said during the debate. Following backlash, Vijay withdrew his comments and apologised for his "ridiculous" choice of words.