Bengaluru: Amid a controversy over BJP MP Tejasvi Surya accusing staff at a Bengaluru municipal Covid war room of a bed allocation scam, a new one is brewing — did he or did he not apologise for his remarks?
The Bengaluru South MP had visited the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) South war room on 5 May for an inspection. During his visit, he read out names of 17 Muslim volunteers, alleging they were part of a bed-blocking scam that was resulting in a lack of hospital beds in the city.
Surya drew a lot of flak for the incident, which some claimed communalised the issue. Staff at the BBMP war room also claimed they had received threats.
A day later, officials from the BBMP south zone war room said Surya had visited them again Thursday and apologised for his behaviour.
However, Surya’s office Friday dismissed the claim as fake news on Twitter.
“When one has no news, they create fake news,” the tweet read.
— Office of Tejasvi Surya (@Offtejasvisurya) May 7, 2021
What BBMP officials say
Surya’s first visit was broadcast live and videos of it have since been shared on social media. In it, he can be heard reading out the names of the Muslim volunteers and later asking an official on what basis they were hired.
Following this, staff claimed they had received threats and were being harassed.
ThePrint spoke to a few of the officials of the war room over phone who said Surya had come to their war room again Thursday evening, at 7 pm.
“At first he had told all of us that nobody should use their mobiles to record any video of his visit. He then said that he had nothing against those who were named by him. He was just reading out names of a list of people. He said he had no intention to hurt the feelings of any community,” said a senior official on the condition of anonymity.
ThePrint is in possession of an audio clip purportedly recorded during Surya’s second visit to the BBMP south war room, but could not independently verify its authenticity. The clip was provided by the BBMP official quoted above.
On it, a man identified as Surya is heard saying, “If anyone or any community is hurt emotionally by my visit, I apologise for that.”
Some of the war room staff also claimed their mobile numbers were leaked on social media.
ThePrint reached some of those singled out by Surya, but their contact numbers were disabled. In the video, Surya, who was speaking in Kannada, could be heard saying: “Have you appointed them to a corporation or a madrasa”.
A second senior official with the war room told ThePrint they were forced to disable their numbers because they were receiving a large volume of threats.
During his Thursday visit, Surya purportedly said he too had been receiving threat calls after his number was leaked online.
“He told us not to worry and that everything will be over in a week’s time,” the BBMP official told ThePrint.
“I am with you and I will teach a lesson to those who leaked your numbers”, a voice on the audio clip can be heard saying.
Shivu Naik, whose agency was given the responsibility to manage the recruitment for the BBMP south war room, told ThePrint that the 17 people whose names Surya read out have been asked to be on hold and no tasks have been assigned to them.
“We want to ensure that all issues are resolved … I have assured them they can come back and work as soon as we verify if any of them are involved in the scam as alleged by the MP,” Naik said.