Bharatiya Janata Party MP Tejasvi Surya on Monday skipped questions from journalists after Bengaluru’s civic body said they will reinstate 11 of the 16 Muslim employees accused of being complicit in a bed allocation scam on communal lines. Five other employees that Surya named refused to rejoin, saying they found the entire experience “traumatising”.

In a press conference on Saturday, as journalists asked Surya why he had singled out the names of those employees, the BJP MP said he only read out a list that was given to him.

“I questioned why they were appointed, how they were appointed, what was the process of appointing,” Surya said. “The video is there. You can get the verbatim from the video.”

On being asked, why the list was made, Surya replied: “You should ask the officers who made it.”

The journalists then went on to question the BJP leader about the communal remarks from two MLAs who accompanied him to the war room while he read out the list last week. BJP MLA Ravi Subramanya had said, according to NDTV: “Have you appointed them for the madrassa or for the Corporation?” Another MLA had said if the appointments were made “like a Haj committee”.

However on Monday, Surya said that he was accountable only for his comments. After being pointed out that the MLAs were with him and that he did not stop them, Surya said: “You may have your agenda...My agenda is very clear. My agenda is to tell the truth. My agenda is to save lives. I have answered this question.”

As the journalists pressed on and asked him why the employees named by him were questioned by the police, Surya refused to reply.

The controversy

The controversy started last week 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 communal overtones to the allegations, accusing Muslims working in the coronavirus war room of being responsible for the conspiracy, without any evidence.

At a press conference, Surya named 16 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 suggested that Surya had specifically read out the names of 16 Muslims officials from among more than 200 employees across various shifts, offering no evidence or explanation for why only these individuals were named.

On May 7, reports said that Surya personally visited the war room to apologise to the workers. However, the BJP leader’s office refuted the reports. “When one has no news, they create fake news,” his office tweeted. News website The News Minute later said it had the 15-minute audio clip where Surya was heard apologising.