When a case was registered in Mumbai against her “blasphemous” comments on Prophet Mohammed, then BJP national spokesperson Nupur Sharma had been quick to underline her importance.
She claimed the entire “senior leadership”, starting with the Prime Minister’s Office, had reassured her saying “we are with you”.
On Sunday, after her suspension, she posted an apology but defended herself saying her controversial remarks had been a response to “insults” to Lord Shiva.
Party insiders said the BJP and Sharma had had their hands “forced by circumstance” and that this didn’t mean the end of her political career.
“She will bounce back once the heat settles down,” a BJP leader said, underlining Sharma’s “deep connections” within the party and the Sangh parivar at large.
Sharma, an articulate, English-speaking law graduate from Delhi University with a master’s from the London School of Economics, had always seemed in a hurry to grab the headlines since the BJP appointed her as a national spokesperson in 2020.
And what surer way to attract attention in the current atmosphere than hurling provocative, anti-Islam remarks on TV?
Her comments, made on Times Now during a debate on the Gyanvapi mosque controversy, triggered violence in India and a backlash abroad.
When the FIR was filed, the 37-year-old claimed she had received death threats from “Islamists”.
“(Former Maharashtra chief minister) Devendra Fadnavis ji called and said ‘Don’t worry beta, we are with you. We are all here with you’,” she told OpIndia, a media organisation seen as pro-government.
She claimed the “senior leadership” of the BJP was with her. “So, the senior leadership, be it the Prime Minister’s Office, the hon’ble home minister’s office, be it the party president’s office, they are all rallying behind me,” she said.
On Sunday, after the party disowned her remarks and suspended her, she posted a statement on her Twitter page, “unconditionally” withdrawing her comments but also defending herself.
“I have been attending TV debates for the past many days where our Mahadev (Shiva) was being insulted and disrespected continuously. It was mockingly being said that it (an article purportedly found on the Gyanvapi mosque premises) is not Shivling but a fountain,” she said.
“I could not tolerate this continuous insult and disrespect towards our Mahadev and I said somethings (sic) in response to it. If my words have caused discomfort or hurt religious feelings of anyone whatsoever, I hereby unconditionally withdraw my statement. It was never my intention to hurt anyone's religious feelings.”
Sharma had been an active member of the ABVP as a student at Delhi’s Hindu College.
She won the election for president of the Delhi University students’ union in 2008 as an ABVP candidate at a time the Congress-backed NSUI dominated Delhi University.
Then came her high-profile electoral debut in 2015, when the BJP fielded her against Arvind Kejriwal from the New Delhi Assembly seat. She lost by over 30,000 votes.
She was given key positions in BJP youth wing BJYM and, in 2017, was appointed a spokesperson for the Delhi BJP. Three years later, she became a national spokesperson.
Sharma comes from a wealthy and well-known family in Delhi, party sources said.