Tejasvi Surya and his associates were seemingly statesmen-like in the press conference. But immediately after, a video started doing the rounds.

Tejasvi Surya stylised image in black background
Voices Opinion Wednesday, May 05, 2021 - 16:45

On May 4 evening, an apparently angry Tejasvi Surya, Bangalore South MP and president of the BJP Youth Morcha, held a press conference where he spoke about “widespread corruption” in the bed allocation system of BBMP amid this peak COVID-19 crisis. He was flanked by his uncle and Basavanagudi MLA Ravi Subramanya, Chickpet MLA Uday Garudachar and Bommanahalli MLA Satish Reddy on either side, as he spoke passionately against the faulty system. At first glance, this looked like a young MP who wanted to clean up the system. But in just a few minutes, it was clear that this was just another play from his communal playbook. 

Tejasvi Surya and his associates were seemingly statesmen-like in the press conference. But immediately after, a video started doing the rounds, along with several WhatsApp forwards that were decidedly communal. In the video, Tejasvi Surya rattles off names of 16 Muslims to a BBMP South Zone official, asking on what basis they were hired. Ravi Subramanya thundered, “Is this a madrassa?”, as the official explained that people who applied were recruited. The WhatsApp forwards — timed to go out right after Tejasvi Surya’s press conference — naming the 16 names Tejasvi Surya mentioned, calling it a “List of terrorists working in BBMP WAR ROOM killing thousands of Bengalurians.” A different version said, “They are ensuring no Hindus get bed easily.” 

In fact, similar WhatsApp forwards brought in some creativity to the communal agenda and swapped out the names of some Muslims with others — including Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner Solid Waste Management, who had to put up a Facebook post clarifying that he is no way involved with the War Room.

Amid all this — and unsurprisingly — the four horsemen of the apocalypse conveniently left out the fact that this particular war room has 205 employees across various shifts. Why did they pick out 16 names? Why were all of them Muslims? Are Muslims predisposed to corruption, according to Tejasvi Surya and his accomplices? Or is this just a part of their strategy to distract from the real issues (and people) plaguing Bengaluru — and the country — during the pandemic?

Read: ‘Do you want people to die?’: Karnataka HC asks Union govt to give more oxygen to state

With his antics on Tuesday, Tejasvi Surya has deflected attention from the inaction and criminal negligence of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Union government, and Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa-led state government — both of which are led by his party the BJP. If Surya really cared for the people of Bengaluru, if not the whole country, he could have asked why his leader Narendra Modi is not giving the state enough oxygen or vaccines. He could have asked why the Union government hasn’t given a single oxygen concentrator that has been received from foreign missions to Karnataka. 

The Union government has been equally if not criminally callous with its vaccine policy which has allowed the crisis witnessed in all of Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

The idea is simple: when the BJP is responsible for (or irresponsible during) any disaster, pin the blame on the “other” —- be it Pakistan, or Bangladeshis, or fellow Indian Muslims, whoever suits the situation best.

Surya and his colleagues of this hate ecosystem have to be credited for the intricate planning and good homework in this engineering of hate. The original press conference had no communal references and he can be seen as an empathetic public representative pained by the widespread distress witnessed by all, and the many struggling to find beds. Further excerpts of the video where they made the madrassa reference were carefully edited to smaller bits and parts to leave out the communal tinge and shared with the media.

By appearing to be a messiah of sorts, Tejasvi Surya reaps political dividends not only personally, but also for the RSS-faction within the BJP. One can be curious about which is of more importance to Surya among the above.

Point to be noted in this particular context is, Tejasvi highlighted the faultlines of the existing bed allocation system which some of the South Zone War Room and Bommanahalli War Room officials apparently exploited. But the entire system is under his own party — the state and the union government, as the BBMP does not have an elected council in place currently. And incidentally, the South Zone War Room is under the observation of Revenue Minister R Ashoka.

And R Ashoka — like CM Yediyurappa — is not always keen to tow the RSS line.

As a BJP MP, if Surya was so keen on exposing corruption and malpractice, he could have fixed the system from within and taken R Ashoka into confidence. He’s not an opposition legislator in the state — he has access to the leadership in his own party surely. That he decided instead to make a public spectacle again points to a need to distract from other issues plaguing the system.

Importantly, the current problem of people dying on the streets and some people profiting by taking bribes is possibly due to scarce resources, and is just symptomatic of the real crisis. The two prime problems in the current time is the state does not have enough HDU, ICU and ventilator beds; and enough oxygen and drugs like Remdesivir.

While one must congratulate Tejasvi Surya in exposing the devious methods in which the current BBMP system has been gamed, it is not solving the crisis because corruption in this case is only a miniscule part of the problem.  

It’s not that Surya is stupid or does not know the same. But he is relentless.

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