Meet New Delhi: A former president of the Delhi University Students Union who was defeated by Arvind Kejriwal in the 2015 Delhi assembly polls, former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Nupur Sharma — who was suspended Sunday after facing backlash over her allegedly insulting remarks about the Prophet Muhammad — was a rising star in the party and a popular figure in TV debates, and is no stranger to controversy.
The 37-year-old, also a graduate of the London School of Economics, made the remarks during a televised debate on the Gyanvapi Mosque case on 26 May. In an apology tweeted Sunday, Sharma wrote: “I could not tolerate the continuous insult and disrespect towards our Mahadev (Lord Shiva) and I said some things in response to it”.
— Nupur Sharma (@NupurSharmaBJP) June 5, 2022
Sharma has time and again made the headlines for her contentious statements — whether about S.A.R. Geelani, who was arrested and later acquitted in the 2001 Parliament attack case, for her allegedly derogatory remarks about Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief and now Delhi CM Kejriwal, or for her discourteous demeanour with other panelists during television debates.
During her college days, Sharma contested the election for Delhi University Student Union president on an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) ticket. She emerged victorious, breaking the ABVP’s eight-year-long dry spell in a union dominated by the Congress’s student wing, the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI). She was the president on the 2008 DUSU panel, in which the other three positions were occupied by NSUI members.
Later, as a prominent face of the BJP’s youth wing, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), Sharma rose through the party ranks quickly. She was appointed a national spokesperson of the BJP in 2020 when party president J.P. Nadda revamped the spokespersons team and appointed new faces from diverse backgrounds.
The BJP picked Sharma to run against Kejriwal in the 2015 Delhi assembly polls, but she lost by over 31,000 votes.
Sharma comes from a family of civil servants and businessmen. Her maternal grandfather Madan Gopal Maharshi was a district magistrate of Dehradun. Her father, Vinay Sharma, is a Delhi-based businessman.
Growing up, she studied at the Delhi Public School, Mathura Road, and later pursued a BA (Honours) in economics from Hindu College, Delhi University (DU). She then obtained an LLB from DU’s Faculty of Law.
After her time at DU, Sharma went on to study at the London School of Economics, where she pursued her LLM in international business. She started working for a private law firm, but eventually quit to pursue politics full time.
In 2010, Sharma was made the media head of the BJYM. In 2013, she became a member of the Delhi BJP’s working committee. When deciding who should face AAP chief Kejriwal in the 2013 Delhi assembly election, the BJP had initially considered Sharma’s name.
Later, Sharma allegedly refused to move away from the capital with her family to Noida a couple of years before the 2015 Delhi assembly election because she wanted to contest the election as a resident of her constituency.
“She was different from other student leaders from that time — [she was] articulate and outspoken,” an ABVP leader told ThePrint on condition of anonymity. “She won the DUSU president’s position at a time when ABVP was not in the mainstream. That raised her stature in the ABVP. Later, her foreign education also increased her influence within the ABVP-BJYM political circles.”
During her presidential tenure at DUSU, she had made headlines for leading protests against DU professor S.A.R. Geelani, During a seminar organised by the DU Faculty of Arts, where Geelani had been invited to speak on communalism, a group of ABVP students had stormed the venue in protest. One student allegedly spat on Geelani.
Later, Sharma defended the ABVP and said that Geelani, “a terrorist”, should not have been invited. “We protested peacefully, maybe a few stones were thrown, that’s all. I had politely requested him to leave the venue, but he refused”, Sharma had said. She was also seen heckling Geelani in pictures.
‘The whole country should spit on him’
Sharma’s stint in television debates began when she was invited to a Times Now show after the Geelani episode in 2008. Although she categorically denied that the student who spat on Geelani belonged to the ABVP, she, in a fit of anger during the debate, said, “the whole country should spit on him”.
In 2020, during another TV debate, Sharma was seen calling a fellow panelist “moron”, “uncouth vagabond” and “sadak chhap buddhe”. Her remarks caused outrage on Twitter.
She also made comments against Kejriwal during the 2015 elections and reportedly asked him to “get some stability” before asking for votes.
In 2017, she was booked by the Kolkata Police for sharing a photo from the 2002 Gujarat riots and allegedly passing it off as one depicting violence in West Bengal.
Last year, during a debate on the rape of a nine-year-old girl in Delhi, Sharma had got into a heated argument with AAP leader Atishi and asked the anchor to “shut her up”, adding that she didn’t need to learn law from the MLA.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)