On 4 May, the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Karnataka Member of Parliament, Tejasvi Surya, walked into a Bengaluru South COVID-19 war room waving a sheaf of papers. He then read out 16 presumably Muslim names, asking Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials, ‘Why were they recruited?'
Surya later called a press conference ‘exposing’ a bed allocation scam in BBMP, accusing officials of allotting beds to those who paid high rates. Shortly after, the contractual employees were removed from BBMP rolls without cause. The MP, who faced a severe backlash for targeting the officials on communal lines, has now been claiming that the list of names “was given to him”, presumably from the BBMP.
In a press conference held on 10 May, the BJP MP had claimed twice that “officials” gave him the list. But it turns out, that is incorrect.
Three BBMP officials have confirmed to The Quint that the Bengaluru municipal corporation had neither compiled the list nor informed Tejsavi Surya of the names of its contractual employees.
On 10 May, BBMP reinstated all 16 people who, according to Bengaluru police, have no links with the alleged ‘bed-scam’.
‘List Not Official’
On 10 May, Surya thwarted questions from Bengaluru journalists who asked him why he had read out the names. He repeated his earlier answer, that he merely read out from a list which was “given to him”.
A senior BBMP official, who did not want to be identified for fear of political backlash, told The Quint, “BBMP has a list of all 214 people who were employed in the war room. We have not made a separate list of those belonging to a particular faith. The list was not compiled by our officials”. Another officer in the know of BBMP matters said, “It was a list which communally grouped employees. Such a list was not compiled by the corporation”.
Once Surya read out the names in the list, they were widely circulated on social media. Several Christian and Muslim BBMP officials were targeted and called “terrorists” who took “Hindu lives”.
A senior BBMP officer who was present in the war room when Surya made his visit said, “The MP had the sheaf of papers when he walked in. He did not check with any BBMP official whether the list was authentic or served any purpose”. The three officials did not come on record as they have been “prohibited from issuing media statements”.
The BBMP has not issued an official statement on the incident.
Where Did the List Come From?
The Quint reached out to Crystal Infosystems, the agency which had recruited the employees for BBMP. The agency confirmed that they had given the names of its employees to the corporation, as per procedure. “Our list, however, had more names. The MP read out the names of only those who were recruited in the past ten to 15 days,” an official working at Crystal Infosystems said.
Did the company provide the list to the MP? “We have no idea how the MP identified these names. This was not a list which was complied by us,” the Crystal employee said.
A senior BBMP official added, “The MP wanted control over the war room and a say in recruitment and management. When he walked in he tried to create communal tension to terrorise the employees so that he can have his way”.
The list, seemed to have been compiled by the MP’s team, the official alleged. “Several members of the MP's team had visited the war room in the recent past. Any of them could have compiled the list. The list, if hence not authentic, serves only the purpose it was created for – communal segregation,” the officer rued.
The MP had visited the war room accompanied by three BJP MLAs including Basavanagudi MLA Ravi Subramanya, Chickpet MLA Uday Garudachar and Bommanahalli MLA Satish Reddy.
Why Make the List?
Before Tejasvi Surya made his entry, three members of his South Bengaluru office had visited the war room, a BBMP official said.
“The MP’s team wanted to know how the beds are allocated and who takes the decisions. They wanted to know whether they can be part of the war room’s functioning. It was told to them that such decisions are taken as per the due process. The next day the MP visited the office,” a BBMP official said.
According to BBMP officials, the list was compiled by the MP’s team because they had an axe to grind. “BBMP did not want the MP’s intervention and this led to tensions. The MP wanted to create an impression that BBMP is recruiting only Muslim members,” the official said.
Tejasvi Surya’s office did not answer questions from The Quint. “The MP has already clarified his position. He has nothing further to add,” Tejasvi Surya’s office responded.