“Just concluded marathon meeting with senior officials & tech volunteers to suggest changes to BBMP bed booking software. We are trying to ensure accountability of persons booking beds, transparent process of allotment & preventing abuse of process. Hope to see them implemented,” says Tejasvi Surya, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Member of Parliament from Bengaluru South who is also the national president of BJP’s youth wing, in a late night tweet. It would appear that after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Surya is the one who will help Bengaluru, and Karnataka deal with the Covid-19 second-wave onslaught.
The MP has claimed a big reveal on what he called a “bed-blocking scandal” in Bengaluru, and has in fact blamed the civic body, which ironically is governed by his own party. However, the video of this ‘expose’ by the MP and his entourage has also exposed its own communal agenda. Communal comments were made against 17 Muslim employees at a Covid war room, and Tejasvi Surya who had read out those name listened on.
In the video clip Tejasvi Surya is in the municipal Covid war room with three BJP MLAs, one of whom is reportedly his uncle, and the politicians are grilling officials. s uncle. Surya is seen reading out a list of names of people posted in the Covid facility – all the names are Muslim. As seen in the video, and reported by many, Surya reads out the names and then asks, “Who are all these people? First shift, second shift, night shift. 17 people in the list in three shifts. I will read the list. What was the process of hiring? 17 people. Who are these people?” According to news reports there are 205 employees in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Covid war room, however that these 17 names of Muslims were singled out exposes another agenda. As soon as the video was uploaded by the MP on his own youtube channel, and then circulated on social media a controversy erupted.
Surya of course has in the part as often referred to Muslims as “puncture wallahs and illiterates”, and commented on anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) protests saying “Mughal raj” will return if the “majority community” was not “vigilant”. In October 2020, Indians in Europe and various other collectives called for the removal of Tejasvi Surya as a speaker at a conference hosted by the Indian Consulate in Hamburg. They said Surya had “a divisive agenda against non-Hindu communities which is against the European ethos of equality, diversity and inclusivity” and that “ goes against the European responsibility under international laws such as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights among others.”
His knack of creating a communal controversy however may have taken the spotlight away from the way the BJP-led state government has been handling the devastating second wave of Covid-19 that on May 4 saw Karnataka breach the 50,000 mark, and reported 346 deaths. According to a bulletin of the Karnataka government released on Wednesday, Bengaluru had reported 23,106 of the new cases, and 161 people had died of Covid-19 in the city in a 24-hour period. The state’s Covid-19 numbers now total around 17.41 lakh, of which 4.87 lakh cases are still active. Bengaluru has 3.13 lakh active cases.
That seems to have stayed a ‘local’ issue and news, and the discussion now seems to be on Surya and his uncle and MLA Ravi Subramanya. Ravi can be heard in the video using communal attacks such as, “Have you appointed them for the madrassa or for the Corporation?… Who is this person, Madam? How can he appoint 17 members like a Haj committee?” Surya lets the communal comments flow uninterrupted. He then called a press conference on Tuesday and alleged that there was “widespread corruption” in allocating Covid beds in Karnataka’s capital.
According to a report in the Indian Express, Surya alleged, “Bribes are being taken to allocate Covid beds. An unholy nexus of BBMP officers, Arogya Mitras and certain private agents is behind this scam,” adding that this had led to an “artificial shortage” of beds. He alleged that the BBMP-in charge booked beds in the name of an asymptomatic patient after being alerted of a vacancy, and that this was done in 4,000 instances. Surya alleged, “So, the same bed is again allotted to another patient after a few hours, either based on monetary considerations or influence by authorities in other cases. The common man calling the helpline is left high and dry.”
As expected after Surya’s allegations the ‘list’ of 16 names made its way to WhatsApp and social media with the caption, “List of people working in the BBMP War Room killing thousands of Bengalurians”.
According to a news report Bengaluru civic body commissioner Sarfaraz Khan was also targeted on social media. According to NDTV, Khan has said that he had “nothing to do with the bed allotment process and that the allegations had caused him deep pain” he added that Surya had called him to clarify that he was not targeting him and that he stood by him. An audio clip purportedly that of this conversation has also started circulating. Later, Surya also distanced himself from the communal statements made by his uncle MLA Ravi Subramanya, in his presence, stating “you need to ask him why he made that statement”. He told the Times of India that when he “went to the BBMP war room, the officials said those 17 wor .. workers had been removed on some charges. I only read out their names and asked on what basis they were appointed…. I am not responsible for what is doing the rounds on social media”
This story first appeared on sabrangindia.in