Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi resigned on Wednesday, one day before his term was expected to come to an end. The Indian parliament has nearly 800 lawmakers in total.
Naqvi’s resignation comes at a volatile time for India’s Hindu and Muslim communities. Religious tensions have been flaring in recent weeks, following comments by the now suspended BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma, about the Prophet Mohammed widely condemned as Islamophobic.
With about 200 million Muslims in India, the country is home to the third-largest Muslim population in the world, following Indonesia and Pakistan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP swept to power in 2014 promising economic reform and development, but critics feared his rise could signal an ideological shift away from the nation’s secular political underpinnings to those of a Hindu-nationalist state.
The BJP has its roots in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu group that counts Modi among its members, and adheres to Hindutva ideology which seeks to define Indian culture in accordance with Hindu values.
Over the last eight years, several BJP-run states have imposed new laws that critics say are rooted in Hindutva ideology. At the same time, reports of violence and hate-speech against Muslims have made headlines across the country.
Earlier this year, the BJP-ruled southern state of Karnataka banned Muslim girls from wearing religious headscarves in classrooms, prompting several to challenge the decision in the state’s top court — a battle they ultimately lost.
In response, the BJP said on its website that the party respected all religions.
“The BJP strongly denounces insult of any religious personalities of any religion,” it said.