Bharatiya Janata Party MP Tejasvi Surya on Friday apologised to the officials of a coronavirus war room in Bengaluru for giving communal overtones to a bed allocation scandal in the city, News18 reported.

However, the BJP leader’s office refuted the report hours after it was published. “When one has no news, they create fake news,” his office tweeted. News website The News Minute later said it has the 15-minute audio clip where Surya purportedly apologised.

The BJP leader had reportedly visited the war room to apologise for his remarks. “I have nothing personal against you,” Surya told the officials, reported News18, citing Shivu Naik, project manager of the Crystal Infosystems and Services, the agency that had hired volunteers for the civic war rooms. “If anyone or any community is hurt emotionally by my visit, I apologise for that.”

Naik told News18 that Surya said he only wanted to investigate the scam and that he had no intention of hurting anyone’s feelings. “Perhaps it was because work was suffering that Surya came again, we are not sure what prompted the second visit,” he added.

The official said that the politicisation of the matter had affected Covid-related work in the war room over the last two days. “Many of them [officials] have stayed away from work,” Naik said. “...all our staff were anguished and scared, after such a sudden visit [by the BJP leaders.]”

The controversy started on Tuesday when Surya and other BJP leaders visited the war room located in Jayanagar, and confronted officials about the manner in which beds were being allocated to Covid patients in Bengaluru. The party leaders claimed that officials of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, the city’s civic body, were colluding with private nursing homes and hospitals to block beds and reserve it for exorbitant fees.

In doing so, Surya, also gave a communal twist to the allegations, accusing Muslims working in a coronavirus war room of being responsible for the conspiracy, without any evidence.

At a live press conference, Surya listed 17 officials responsible for the alleged scam, all of whom are Muslims. The BJP leader asked why so many from the same community were appointed in the war room.

Subsequent reports made it evident that Surya had simply read out the names of 17 Muslims officials from among more than 200 employees across various shifts, offering no evidence or explanation for why only these individuals were highlighted.

Visiting the war room again on Friday, Surya claimed that he had merely read out names from a list that was given to him, and that he did not realise they were all from the same community. “I didn’t see whether it was Hindu or Muslim,” he claimed, The News Minute reported.

The BJP leader urged the war room officials to remember all the good that he had done for the city. “I’m not casteist or communal,” he told them, the news portal reported, quoting unidentified officials. “I am doing good for the people. I don’t have any bad intentions.”

Muslim workers Surya accused aren’t being given work

Following Surya’s allegations, several officials of the war room complained they were being harassed by strangers as their names and numbers had been leaked on social media platforms, The News Minute reported. Several workers had to disable their numbers after receiving a barrage of unsolicited phone calls, unidentified officials told the news website.

During his visit to the war room on Friday, Surya claimed that he too was facing threats after his number was leaked online. “Don’t worry, this will all be over in a week,” he said, adding that his office had no role in circulating the personal information of any worker.

“I am with you,” the BJP leader told officials. “I will teach a lesson to those who leaked your numbers.”

Meanwhile, Shivu Naik from the agency managing the war room, told News18 that the 17 Muslim workers named by Surya were not being given any work for now because of the allegations against them. “But I have told them that the minute the police enquiry clears you, we will reinstate you either here or in any of the other projects we send staff for,” he told the channel.