On Tuesday, an expectant saffron-clad crowd waited at the Maha Dodda Ganapathi Temple in Bengaluru’s Basavanagudi for the arrival of 28-year-old Tejasvi Surya, who was confirmed as the BJP's candidate from Bengaluru (South) constituency.
However, many senior BJP leaders from the city including R Ashok were conspicuous by their absence at the temple and at the BBMP Office in Jayanagar where Tejasvi proceeded to file his nomination.
Tejasvi was flanked by PN Sadashiva, Bengaluru City BJP President and Ravi Subramanya, his uncle and Basavanagudi MLA at the procession in Basavanagudi. He was later joined by Uday Garudachar, Chikpet MLA, and Bengaluru-based Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar while notable leaders like former Deputy CM R Ashoka, Satish Reddy and V Somanna were absent during the event. Ashok is the campaign in-charge for the BJP in Karnataka and had inaugurated a poll office in Jayanagar last week along with Tejaswini.
A section of BJP supporters were also shouting slogans about Ananth Kumar, who held the Bengaluru South seat until his demise last year. But the mild dissidence did little to unnerve the 28-year-old debutant Tejasvi.
"It was overwhelming. The BJP reposes faith in young leaders like me and that is the testimony to the vibrant nature of the party that they have seen I am worthy of this task," Tejasvi said speaking to reporters after signing his nomination papers.
"I called other leaders like Ashoka and Somanna but their schedules are prepared in advance and the candidature was announced late last night. I will be meeting them later today," he further added.
The nomination process capped an exhausting day for the lawyer who was handpicked by the BJP to contest in Ananth Kumar’s constituency.
Tejasvi began his day by obtaining the B-Form from BJP State President BS Yeddyurappa at his residence in Bengaluru. He then visited Tejaswini Ananth Kumar, wife of Ananth Kumar, who had won from the Bengaluru South constituency six straight times since 1996. Tejaswini was widely expected to be named as the candidate this time.
Her name, however, did not figure in the first list of candidates released by the BJP which triggered speculation that the central leadership of the party had other plans for the constituency that Ananth Kumar made his own over the years.
Eventually, late on Monday night, Tejasvi’s candidature was confirmed from Bengaluru South. "I think in the same way just like in 1996 when a young Ananth Kumar was picked by the party, I have also been chosen. All the party leaders are together and will face this election together", he stated.
Tejasvi is a lawyer practising in the Karnataka High Court. He studied at National College Jayanagar and Bangalore Institute of Legal Studies. He was a member of the ABVP in his college days after being part of the RSS since his school days.
He later became a member of the party’s Yuva Morcha during his days as a student in Bangalore Institute of Legal Studies and is currently serving as the General Secretary of the Yuva Morcha. He officially joined the Yuva Morcha four years ago and writes columns for Swarajya, Opindia and India Facts.
Although he has a good reputation among the BJP cadre for his fervent speeches, critics have accused Tejasvi of making polarising statements in the past. In a tweet from 2014, that now stands deleted, Tejasvi Surya had said that he would dread the day the Women's Reservation Bill is passed.
When asked about the tweet, Tejasvi responded by saying he does not remember when exactly he had tweeted it. "I don't remember when I have said this. I have been busy with the nomination process all day. I don't know how people have taken which old tweet out of context but I have the intelligence to give the answers to the questions from those who ask them," he said.
Another video in which he claims that "if people are not with Modi, they are anti-India" has also been circulated after the news of his candidature spread.
All anti-India forces have united to stop Modi. While Modi's agenda is building a new & robust India, their agenda is to stop him. They have no positive agenda.— Chowkidar Tejasvi Surya (@Tejasvi_Surya) March 22, 2019
If you are with Modi, you are with India. If you are not with Modi, then you are strengthening anti-India forces. pic.twitter.com/k0mXzqItrG
Tejasvi said that he is not apologetic for the statement. "The context in which I made that statement is very clear. All of the hatred towards Modi has crossed sanity and is becoming hatred towards India. If you oppose Modi, in a democracy you very well have the right to do so. But the concern here is when that opposition to Modi turns to hatred and you start making statements which are used by your enemy countries, therefore, in that context I said this time especially with 2019 elections, if you are with Modi you are definitely with India and if you are anti-Modi your opposition to Modi is taking the shape of opposition to India which is dangerous. Therefore, I am not apologetic for having said that," he said.
Tejasvi will face senior Congress leader BK Hariprasad, who also filed his nomination on Tuesday. He chose to criticise the recent comments made by Hariprasad in which he suggested that there was 'match-fixing' between Narendra Modi and Imran Khan over the Pulwama terror attack.
He also said that the BJP is grooming young leaders like Pratap Simha, Pritam Gowda and himself. But he was quick to add that this election is not about himself but a fight to return Modi to power. "This is not Tejasvi Surya vs BK Hariprasad. This is about Narendra Modi vs the rest," he added.