Published: 23rd May 2019
The rise of Tejasvi Surya: Why the BJP's youngest candidate won big in Bengaluru
A first-timer at the parliamentary polls, Tejasvi Surya being given a ticket to contest the elections was rather shocking to everybody. Here are the reasons that may have contributed to his victory
How would you expect a typical 90s kid to react when you surprise them with a 'gift' that is way beyond their imagination, but something that they always wanted? Well, it's 2019 and the 90's kid is a 28-year-old politician, who heads a state youth wing of the ruling party. Also, we do not clearly know if the gift was really a surprise. Nevertheless, this is how Tejasvi Surya reacted when the Bharatiya Janata Party offered him a ticket to contest the 2019 Parliamentary Elections from the Bengaluru South constituency. "OMG OMG!!! I can't believe this. PM of world's largest democracy & President of largest political party have reposed faith in a 28 yr old guy to represent them in a constituency as prestigious as B'lore South. This can happen only in my BJP. Only in #NewIndia of @narendramodi."
Uncut, unapologetic and unusual
What followed was a series of tweets, thanking a number of people including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, former minister Ananth Kumar and his own parents. He went on tweeting about his excitement, adrenaline rush and how he wasn't able to sleep that night. For most of us, who are often used to seeing politicians often sticking to formal conversational tones, here is a 20 something-year-old law graduate from the Bangalore Institute of Legal Studies, who seemingly looks like one of you. He uses the same Twitter lingo as you do and is unapologetic of his comments and views. He may seem like the boy next door, who gets excited when he meets his idols. In a way, all of this would have resonated with Bengaluru's young IT crowd, playing a role in the massive number of votes he has garnered.
On the day of the results, at the time that this story is being written, Tejasvi is leading with 62.65 per cent votes (That's a massive 7.31 lakh votes). If the trend continues, the BJP Karnataka Youth Wing General Secretary will have an almost landslide victory against his close competitor, INC veteran BK Hariprasad. It may be noted, that at this point, Narendra Modi has fared 63.47 per cent votes in Varanasi. We decided to have a look at the factors that favoured this young lawyer's candidature in Bengaluru South, apart from the 'youth connect'.
This is BJP turf, baby
Since 1991, Bengaluru South has always been a BJP bastion. Ananth Kumar, the former Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers and Parliamentary Affairs was a sitting MP from the constituency for 22 years — from 1996 till his death in 2018. Before him, BJP's K V Gowda won the 1991 parliamentary election from the same seat, hence becoming Bengaluru South's first BJP MP. It's safe to say that if ever there was a constituency in Karnataka that true-blue BJP, it is this.
Though the BJP has always been vocal against dynasty politics and nepotism, it has to noted that Tejasvi is the nephew of Basavanagudi MLA Ravi Subramanya. Subramanya's stronghold in the constituency would be another component that helped this young politician. However, in an interview, Tejasvi had brushed off the connection as remote and not having any bearing on his being given the seat.
Whose line is it anyway?
Tejasvi's only real competition was Rajya Sabha MP B K Hariprasad, who has previously lost against Ananth Kumar from the same constituency in the 1999 general elections. For someone who isn't alien to controversies, the AICC General Secretary was recently in the news for mocking Amit Shah when he fell ill on the campaign trail. When the BJP President was admitted in AIIMS earlier this year for swine flu, Hariprasad said, "Amit Shah has got fever due to panic. He panicked as some MLAs have come back. If he topples the Congress-JD(S) government, then he will have vomiting and loose motion. That is why he got swine fever." This sparked a lot of criticism. During the Pulwama attacks, Hariprasad was quoted as saying that the incident was a result of "match-fixing between India and Pakistan." There is a distinct possibility that these comments would have also favoured Tejasvi's victory.
Twitterati and young Indians have always had a liking towards articulate politicians. Case in point is Shashi Tharoor. While Tharoor's flair is limited to his proficiency in English, Tejsavi is fluent in Kannada too. He is often regarded as an eloquent speaker and several of his speeches (or the videos of them) have gone viral. Remember that speech — the one where he said 'If you are with Narendra Modi, you are with India and if you are against Narendra Modi, you are against India' — speeches of that depth and calibre are a dime a dozen on social media. All people needed to do was subscribe to Tejasvi and they would have gotten plenty of food for thought.
#MeToo be or not #MeToo be. That is the question
At the end of March, Tejasvi was caught in the #MeToo controversy. But this young lawyer was quick to react to the allegation. He first categorically proclaimed his innocence, indicated that this was the dirty work of the Opposition and then wound things up nicely by getting a court order banning the media from publishing defamatory content against him. Even though this was revoked a few days later, this helped him keep his image and reputation squeaky clean.
An amalgam of these with obviously a few other factors have made Tejasvi one of the youngest MPs in the 17th Lok Sabha. Reacting to this, he tweeted, "This election is incomplete if I don't express my gratitude to each and everyone of you who made this possible." He is also set to have a meet and greet with the voters — the very people who have given him a shot at glory.
Also, though it's completely unrelated, his Facebook profile tells us that his nickname is 'Moto'. How could Bangalore vote any other way?
What's it gonna be, Tejasvi?