Tejasvi Surya is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate in Bangalore South, a seat that the party has held since 1991. The 28-year-old lawyer is a poster-boy for the saffron party: he is state general secretary for the Karnataka BJP’s youth wing and also a party spokesperson.
Surya, the nephew of BJP lawmaker Ravi Subramanya, is the youngest candidate to have been fielded by the saffron party. He is known for his polarising speeches and is closely associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the BJP. Surya has said that he is unapologetic about this association as it played a great role in shaping him.
Surya is pitted against Congress veteran BK Hariprasad.
Since 1996, the seat had been held by senior BJP leader and Union minister Ananth Kumar. After Kumar died in November, there was speculation that his wife Tejaswini Ananth Kumar would be the BJP’s candidate from the constituency. After Surya’s candidature was announced, many of Tejaswini Ananth Kumar’s supporters staged a protest in Bengaluru. But in April, Tejaswini Kumar was appointed vice president of the BJP’s Karnataka unit, a move that was seen as an attempt to placate her.
When his candidature was announced, Surya reacted on Twitter by declaring, “OMG OMG! I can’t believe this.” He promised to “work ceaselessly for the motherland” till his last breath.
Soon after, his detractors dug out a flurry of old posts he had made on Twitter that showcased his polarising views.
“Call me a bigot, communal fanatic or whatever,” he had written on Twitter in June 2018. “But singular reason for BJP’s defeat in Jayanagar is the complete consolidation of Muslim vote. Look at the below numbers from Gurappanapalya, a Muslim locality. BJP must ‘really’ become a Hindu party & not just be perceived as one.”
He added: “BJP should unapologetically be a party for Hindus. Must take concrete legislative measures to alleviate Hindu issues, not just make speeches…Congress is the party of Muslims: every Hindu must be convinced of this truth.”
Several of his tweets referred to the “Hindu rashtra” and nationalism.
Describing the parliamentary elections “a test of the common Indian’s patriotism”, Surya had claimed at a speech in Bengaluru: “If you are with Modi, you are with India. If you are not with Modi, you are anti-India.”
In the last week of March, Surya filed a suit in a civil court in Bengaluru after media reports about allegations of sexual abuse against him. The court passed an injunction barring 49 media houses as well as social media platforms from publishing defamatory content against him. But about two weeks later, the Karnataka High Court set aside the gag order.
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