Spokespersons of BJP’s UP unit have been asked not to participate in debates held by news channels to discuss the clashes in Kanpur and the Nupur Sharma episode as the party has become hyper vigilant to remarks going out and how it is received, following the backlash from Islamic countries over remarks on Prophet Mohammad.

The party has also underlined what the spokespersons said was a standard rule but which has been not adhered to – that is, to not say anything that hurts the religious feelings of any community even as the spokespersons lent both veiled and direct support to Sharma.

“We have been asked not to attend debates discussing the Kanpur clashes. It is seen that the anchor often corners you into saying something. If you choose to reserve comments on an issue, a statement that you made in the past will be thrown at you and you will be forced to say something that makes you appear anti-minority,” said a UP BJP spokesperson on conditions of anonymity. The party has said that it was the sole authority to decide the issues the spokespersons can offer comments for.

Another spokesperson said they have been asked not to comment in debates over the entire episode, including the Kanpur clashes, but defended Sharma for her remark. “She did not say anything debatable but it is due to the extreme view that the Islamic countries have of their religion, that the issue snowballed into something so huge,” he said.

Even UP CM Yogi Adityanath’s silence over the Kanpur violence was conspicuous considering his strong reaction to the incidents of breach of law and order in the state. He had directed the officials to take strict action against the ‘rioters’ which was then publicised as his reaction. But, the lack of a public statement was in sharp contrast to when riots broke out during the anti-CAA protests in 2019, when Adityanath had made a strong statement stating that his government would “take revenge” from all those who destroyed public property.

Deputy CMs Keshav Maurya and Brajesh Pathak condemned the Kanpur incident publicly. Party insiders defended the CM saying it was because he was busy with the PM and President – both of whom were in town on the same day – and that the matter was controlled swiftly, that he did not issue a separate statement.

“The party keeps holding workshops from time to time for its spokespersons. Refraining from saying something that hurts religious feelings is a standard rule,” said another spokesperson, while also adding as an afterthought that a “party’s spokesperson is the party’s advocate”, implicitly defending Sharma.

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