BJP MP Tejasvi Surya questioned by bank scam victims, exits in a huff

Videos of the incident show a woman depositor questioning Basavanagudi MLA and Tejasvi’s uncle Ravi Subramanya who dismissed her and pushed her hand away.
Tejasvi Surya
Tejasvi Surya
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Bengaluru South Lok Sabha MP Tejasvi Surya walked out of a meeting on Saturday, April 13, along with his uncle and Basavangudi MLA Ravi Subramanya during which depositors of the Sri Guru Raghavendra Co-operative (SGRC) Bank tried to raise the issue of the bank’s revival with him. 

Depositors who arrived at a meeting called "Sahakara Samagama" assumed that it was to discuss the revival of the bank. However, when they arrived at the venue, they realised that both Tejasvi and Ravi Subramanya were hosting the meeting as a part of their election campaign.

Videos of the meeting that surfaced on Sunday show a woman depositor questioning Ravi Subramanya who dismissed her questions and slapped her hand away as she tried to reach out to him. Another video shows Tejasvi Surya leaving the venue in anger while the crowd is heard saying, “Answer their questions.”

The SGRC Bank scam has impacted over 20,000 depositors, with allegations that over Rs 1,000 crore have been misappropriated. The case has been investigated by the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Criminal Investigation Department. The CBI is currently investigating it after the state government handed over the case last year and the Enforcement Directorate.

According to depositors, Ravi Subramanya arrived late and avoided questions about the bank's revival plan, which he had promised to outline during his election campaign in May last year. Depositors who pressed for answers were met with dismissive replies and accusations. Tensions escalated when an announcement was made declaring the meeting an "election meeting" where questions would not be allowed.

“Ravi had promised that he would give a PowerPoint presentation with the complete outline of the revival of the bank after the Assembly elections. But when the woman (in the video) tried to ask him about it, he did not give a reasonable answer. Later we were told that it was an election meeting and it is not a grievance redressal meeting, that we should listen to the speeches of MLAs and MPs and that no one would be permitted to ask any questions,” a depositor who attended the event told TNM, requesting anonymity. 

A verbal altercation ensued between the depositors and the legislator’s supporters, with police intervention necessary to prevent the situation from worsening. 

By the time Tejasvi Surya came to the venue, his supporters had forced most of the depositors, including senior citizens, out of the venue. “The MP did not answer any of the questions of the depositors. He just told a barrage of lies. He said that he did this and that, and did not answer any questions asked by depositors. Some of his stooges gave him a loud applause. He even blamed some depositors for the bank’s failure, and ran away from the meeting boasting that the revival of the bank can only be done by his party and himself," the depositor said.

The video is an embarrassment to Tejasvi Surya, who has been using this issue for his election campaign and claiming credit for returning money to 85% of the depositors. In one of his campaign videos, he says, “I fought for the depositors inside the court as a lawyer and in the parliament as a parliamentarian representing them. Made amendments to the Banking regulation act, got all cooperative banks under the supervision of RBI (sic).” 

Meanwhile, the Congress has filed a complaint with the Election Commission of India against Tejasvi Surya and Ravi Subramanya for allegedly manhandling the depositors and assaulting the election officials who were recording the incident. 

The Banaswadi police had registered a case on February 7, 2020, under Indian Penal Code sections pertaining to cheating, criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, and Section 9 of the Karnataka Protection of Interest of Depositors in Financial Establishments Act. 

The Enforcement Directorate has found that officers and employees of the bank siphoned off money. One of the ways they attracted depositors was to promise them a higher rate of interest than the existing market rate. The ED had said that the employees and officers of the bank had opened fictitious loan accounts without proper documents and transferred that money into the overdue loan accounts to project the bank as financially healthy. In February, the ED told the jurisdictional court that it found no documents for over 2,000 loans amounting to Rs 1,544 crore. 

One of the arrested in the case is Rajesh VR, who along with his wife Nagavalli BS, is an accused in multiple similar cases in other banks.  

In January 2020, the Reserve Bank of India placed restrictions on the bank, prohibiting it from issuing fresh loans or making new investments without prior approval from the RBI. It also prohibited the withdrawal of more than Rs 35,000 from any depositor’s account. The withdrawal limit was later raised to Rs 1 lakh. 

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