Bed allotment scam: Tejasvi Surya, other BJP legislators draw flak for communalising COVID-19

Of the 204 staff manning the war room, they read out 17 names, all members of a minority community

Updated - May 06, 2021 06:53 am IST

Published - May 06, 2021 06:30 am IST

Tejasvi Surya, MP, and other leaders at the south zone war room in Bengaluru on Tuesday

Tejasvi Surya, MP, and other leaders at the south zone war room in Bengaluru on Tuesday

Member of Parliament from Bengaluru South Tejasvi Surya and the three BJP MLAs who carried out an expose of alleged bed-blocking by staff in the South Zone War Room, which they live-streamed on social media on Tuesday, have received flak for communalising the issue.

Of the 204 staff manning the war room, Mr. Surya read out 17 names, all members of a minority community. He questioned their recruitment and their role, following which all 17 were fired. MLAs Ravi Subramanya and Satish Reddy had also made communally loaded statements. Senior Minister K.S. Eshwarappa on Wednesday expressed suspicion that minority organisations may be behind bed-blocking in the city.

Many citizens took to social media to criticise Mr. Surya for communalising the issue. Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah said BJP leaders were unfairly trying to pin the blame on a community for the bed-blocking scam. “The communal virus in your brain is more dangerous than coronavirus, better get tested,” he tweeted.

Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy also came down heavily on the legislators. “A legislator asks whether this is a madrasa. When people are dying, these legislators are going to the war room and doing politics. Religion doesn’t work, honesty works,” he said.

Several activists have demanded a criminal case be booked against Mr. Surya and the legislators.

“In reading only the names of the 17 employees from a minority community and making communal remarks, they have promoted enmity and hatred. Police have to book a suo motu case under Sections 153A and 505(2) of the IPC. What proof does he have to blame them?” said advocate and activist Vinay Sreenivasa.

Public health activist Dr. H.V. Vasu was equally scathing in his criticism. “It is clearly a diversionary tactic, a pattern we have seen both across the country and in Karnataka last year too, when the crisis went out of hand and people’s anger was directed at BJP governments in the State and Centre,” he said.

BJP MLA Uday Garudachar, who was in the war room with Mr. Surya on Tuesday, sought to distance himself from the communal overtones. “India is a secular country, and no community should be targeted. We were pointing out irregularities at the war room,” he said.

Sarfaraz Khan unfairly targeted

Shortly after Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya pulled up 17 staff members in the war room and questioned their role, a list of their names started circulating on social media. The list included the name of Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike.

Mr. Khan took to Facebook and penned a note citing “extreme pain” at being unfairly targeted, especially as he is not involved in the running of the war room. “...A communal angle is given to this issue and I am being blamed,” he said.

Detailing his work at COVID-19 Care Centres this year, and in food and ration distribution last year, he stated that a person’s religion did not come into play. He said his extensive groundwork last year led to his entire family suffering from the infection. “Is this not proof enough that I am one among you?” he wrote.

Mr. Surya called Mr. Khan on Wednesday and distanced himself from the viral social media message. “I have heard good things about you, and I respect your work. I never took your name. I will stand by you if others target you,” he is heard saying during the call, a video of which was uploaded on Facebook.

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