BJP general secretary Ram Madhav today disapproved of the "hounding, abuses, death-wishes and obscenities" aimed at Union minister Sushma Swaraj on social media in a row over passport application of an interfaith couple, describing her as a leader who has championed the cause of nationalism for over four decades.
In an article in a leading English daily, he also said that difference of opinion in such matters is plausible and valid but it would be improper to blame the external affairs minister for a decision like transfer of a passport official accused of asking irrelevant questions to the couple about their religions.
Madhav's defence of Swaraj is the first instance of a senior BJP office-bearer offering a detailed public response on the controversy. He is also considered close to the RSS.
Swaraj was viciously attacked after her ministry had issued a passport to Tanvi Seth, days after she accused Lucknow-based passport officer Vikas Mishra of harassing her and her husband Anas Siddiqui.
Seth had made a slew of allegations against Mishra, including asking her husband to convert to Hinduism and pulling her up for marrying a Muslim. The passport official, who claimed that he made only professional enquiries, was subsequently transferred.
"Every issue that involves two different religionists need not be seen from a religious prism alone. There can be secular issues involving people of different religions. They should be seen from a purely administrative or governance prism," Madhav argued.
"A difference of opinion in these matters is plausible and valid as well. What is not valid is the hounding, the abuse, the death-wishes, the obscenities like calling her Begum Sushma or worse commenting on her health and kidney - or a retired professor asking her husband to beat her up," he said.
All this was done to a leader who championed the cause of nationalism for over four decades in the rough and tumble of the country's politics, by those who claim allegiance to the very same ideology, Madhav added.
A number of social media users who attacked Swaraj are seen to be vocal supporters of the BJP.