Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, are among the 40 star campaigners for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the Karnataka Assembly elections, scheduled on 10 May.
The saffron party however has left out a prominent young face, Tejasvi Surya – a member of parliament (MP) from Bengaluru South.
The 32-year-old, who was recently in news for allegedly opening the emergency exit gate of an airliner, is the president of the BJP's youth wing – the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha. He was also the star campaigner for Tripura elections, making his omission a surprise.
According to the BJP, Tejasvi Surya was "not excluded" from campaigning. "The party drew up the list of campaigners and sent it to the Election Commission of India which approved the list. There is nothing more to be said about this. There is no concern," a BJP leader told The Quint on condition of anonymity. The leader did not explain why Surya did not make it to the campaigners list in the first place.
Why the Omission?
A BJP leader said, "He is a member of parliament from Karnataka and a popular leader for us. He is anyways campaigning for the party and has been doing so for weeks now. But we also need people from the organisation who can be sent at short notice for meetings, everyone cannot be burdened with the responsibility of campaigning all the time," NDTV reported.
Meanwhile, another source told NDTV, "Tejasvi Surya has been asked to campaign in at least 50 constituencies across the state. He will be in Puttur, Byndoor and Shimoga tomorrow.”
Congress was quick to react to Surya being dropped. Congress leader Supriya Shrinate called Surya "Nafrati Chintu" and said that nobody cares for him even in his own state. “It's time for him to get down from the high horse," she added.
Another MP from Karnataka who has also been supporting Hindutva, Pratap Simha, has been left out of the star campaigners list. Simha represents the Mysuru-Kodagu constituency and is also a national spokesperson of the BJP. The BJP has also not included BY Vijayendra, son of former chief minister BS Yediyurappa, who is contesting from the Shikaripura seat.
Sources close to Surya reportedly told NDTV that the BJP leadership had decided to keep all young leaders off the list.
Surya’s omission could also be due to the ridicule caused to the BJP after his ‘emergency exit-gate’ fiasco. As per the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), on 10 December, a passenger opened the emergency door of a grounded plane, creating a scare among passengers. Though Surya was not named, co-passengers later came forward to name him. Later, Union Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia said:
"It is important to look at the facts. The door was opened by him by mistake when the flight was on the ground and after all checks, the flight was allowed to take off. He also apologised for the mistake."
The Bengaluru South MP has been involved in several controversies earlier as well – from allegedly leading a mob to attack Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence last year to making hate speech against minorities in India.
The elections are due on 10 May and the results will be announced on 13 May.