On the heels of Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya allegedly uncovering 'a massive racket' in the COVID-19-bed allotment system of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), voices charging him with inciting communal tensions have emerged. Surya, national president of the BJP youth wing, had previously accused members of the BBMP War Room of taking bribes in exchange for hospital beds.

Supported by BJP legislators, Surya alleged that beds were being booked under the names of asymptomatic patients recovering at home. According to him, over 4,000 previously blocked beds had been unblocked upon the payment of a bribe to BBMP employees.

Surya and his team of BJP legislators, while allegedly exposing the corruption of the officials involved in allocating beds, made communally charged statements against Muslim employees working in the War Room. Referencing a list of Muslim employees, Surya demanded that the recruitment rationale that led to their hiring be explained and that the employees reveal their qualifications.

Tejasvi Surya gives communal spin to criminal BBMP bed scam [details]

Targeting the minority staff?

Additionally, two other BJP legislators, Satish Reddy and Ravi Subramanya, voiced their disapproval of the War Room being dominated by members of the Muslim community, alleging that they had been hired intentionally. However, a closer look at the South War Room Employees List reveals that only 17 out of the 205 employees in the War Room belong to the minority community.

Read: BBMP's flawed system killing COVID patients; grassroots execution missing

Speaking to International Business Times, advocate Vinay Sreenivasa said: "The blatant communalization of this event is absolutely pathetic and shocking. As an MP from Bangalore South, a region that is facing oxygen shortages, he [Surya] should have been fighting for oxygen supply and rightful dues in taxes. He is not helping people out in a real manner. Instead of improving the allocation of beds, he has merely read out the names of Muslim BBMP employees. He has shifted the narrative without addressing the deaths in Chamarajanagar. The question we must ask now is: why is the commissioner of police not taking action? What they [Surya and the BJP legislators] have done is a crime. According to sections 153A and 505(2) of the IPC, inciting communal tensions a crime."

He added that an FIR should be filed immediately against Surya and the MLAs, noting that FIRs have previously been filed in the district to resolve simpler issues.

Instead, according to sources familiar with the matter, the Muslim workers in the BBMP war room were interrogated by the police the same night of Surya's press conference. The police have registerd two cases and arrested four accused in the alleged bed allotment scam case. The police is also conducting searches at 8 locations across Bengaluru city as the further investigation continues.

Andaman journalist arrested by the police over his tweet
Representative image

Referring to the incident, Srivatsa YB, the national campaign in-charge of the Indian National Congress, stated that Surya had specifically accused those members of the BBMP War Room who belong to the Muslim community. Srivatsa asserted that the BJP legislators were holding only these 17 employees accountable, while other members of the BJP leadership had not been questioned. "This is the level of Bigotry by BJP [sic]", said Srivatsa on Twitter.

Earlier on Wednesday, a joint commissioner of the civic body, Sarfaraz Khan, alleged in a Facebook update that 'anti-social elements' were 'spreading poison' and stirring communal tensions. Addressing a widely-circulated WhatsApp message that claimed that the Muslim BBMP War Room employees were 'killing thousands of Bengalurians' in the BBMP War Room, the joint commissioner clarified that he is not associated with War Room operations and expressed his displeasure with the communal tone that the issue had assumed. 

In another statement by Shaik Zakeer Hussain, Editor of The Cognate, "Muslim organizations and frontline workers are at the forefront of providing emergency relief, procuring oxygen cylinders, and performing the last rites of Covid-19 victims ever since the start of the pandemic. Instead of acknowledging and honouring them, Tejaswi Surya and the BJP are trying to malign and discredit their work selfless work. He is trying to deflect the attention of the public from the failure of his government to provide beds and essential oxygen supply and blaming the Muslim community. This is the repeat of what happened last year, at the beginning of the pandemic when the BJP machinery and sections of the media blamed the community for spreading the virus."

Tejasvi Surya
Tejasvi Suryatwitter

According to TNM report, these WhatsApp messages were released in the immediate aftermath of Surya's expose, citing a message that refers to the names of the BBMP Muslim employees as "List of terrorists working in BBMP WAR ROOM killing thousands of Bengalurians." A different version of the same forward reads: "They are ensuring no Hindus get bed easily."

As more voices emerge in criticism of Surya, the MP himself has not issued any statement in