Surya had also said that groups who converted to other religions (like Christianity and Islam) during the course of India’s history must be reconverted to Hinduism on a “war footing”.

Bengaluru MP Tejasvi Surya in a saffron vest against a saffron backgroundFile image
news Controversy Monday, December 27, 2021 - 19:26

For those familiar with Tejasvi Surya’s provocative and divisive speeches, his statement calling for ‘ghar wapsi’ (religious conversion to Hinduism) of Muslims and Christians did not come as a huge surprise. But what left many confused was his decision to ultimately withdraw his comments on ‘reconversion.’

When TNM spoke to BJP insiders, both in Karnataka and in Delhi, it became apparent that Surya’s statements had not been cleared by the BJP high command. Though all statements made by leaders are not vetted, this was one that had the ability to cause an international stir as well.

On October 30, PM Modi finally met with Pope Francis at the Vatican City after prolonged lobbying with the Vatican, sources confirmed. After the meeting, accompanying photographs of PM Modi embracing the Pope were shared widely, along with a message that Modi had invited the head of the Catholic Church to India. As Modi's ambition to be a more accepted global leader is being nurtured, an endorsement from the Vatican will play a crucial role. Amidst this, the national president of his party’s youth wing issuing statements that identify “Western” ideas as enemies of Hinduism will be a hindrance and an embarrassment for the Modi government, a BJP source said.

Surya, on Saturday, had said in order to make the Hindu ideology stronger, “Western” ideas such as Communism, “Meccaism” and colonialism – forces that he believes aim to “destroy” the Sanatan dharma – must be understood, in order to “defeat the enemy.”

In addition, a domestic issue also conflicted with Surya’s grand statement of ‘reconversion’. While Surya looked to play to the gallery at the Udupi Mutt, BJP leaders, including PM Modi, are wooing the Christian population ahead of the Goa Assembly polls. 

In a rally during the Goa Liberation Day on December 20, PM Modi had spoken of his visit to the Vatican and recalled his meeting with Pope Francis. Modi said that the Pope’s “attitude towards India was overwhelming”. He said Pope Francis' reaction to his invitation was, "This is the greatest gift you have given me."

According to the 2011 population census, 25.1% of Goa's population is Christian and this is the first election BJP is facing after the death of their strongest leader from the state, Manohar Parrikar. 

Read: BJP's rising star: Why Tejasvi Surya’s brand of bigotry works for them

Surya had also said that groups who converted to other religions (like Christianity and Islam) during the course of India’s history must be reconverted to Hinduism on a “war footing,” and this includes converting Muslims in Pakistan to Hinduism. However, this could create a diplomatic row for the NDA government in Delhi.

In view of this, sources have told TNM that Surya who was in Lucknow, was told by a senior RSS leader close to PM Modi to issue the statement and not fan the controversy any further. Sources also confirmed that Surya had received instruction on the wordings of the ‘withdrawal’ as well.  

Tejasvi has routinely targeted minorities. In December 2019, during a pro-CAA rally in Bengaluru, Surya had said that only “illiterates and puncture-wallahs” had a problem with the CAA. In August 2020, he had tweeted saying “control of State power by Hindus is absolutely essential for sustenance of Dharma. When we didn’t control State, we lost our temple. When we regained, we rebuilt” (sic). In May 2021, Surya had gone to a BBMP COVID-19 war-room and while alleging a bed-allocation scandal by the employees there, he had read out a list of employees he claimed were involved in it, all Muslims. Initially Surya was defiant, claiming he merely read the names from the list handed to him, and had refused to apologise. Later, after much outrage, he yielded and reportedly issued an apology to the employees of the war-room. 

Read: Aftermath of Tejasvi Surya's Islamophobic 'raid': The War Room 16 speak out