- Many of his radical tweets from past have been circulated and retweeted
- Tejasvi Surya, 28, is the BJP candidate from Bangalore South
- He has begun his campaign armed with a gag order on the media
Tejasvi Surya, the ruling BJP's candidate for the Bangalore South seat, has begun his campaign for the national election armed with a gag order on the media. His rivals and critics had to look no further than his Twitter timeline, a display case of controversial posts over the years.
The 28-year-old lawyer does not regret the tweets; he calls them a part of growing up, a process of evolving.
"I don't think I would have done things differently. I am like any 26, 27, 28 year old. I think we all evolve in life. That's the reason I am not deleting the tweets that people are putting out of context and trying to make a scene out of. The tweets reflect that I am a thinking guy, that I deliberated, debated and thought about it," he told NDTV.
Dressed in a blue button-down shirt with a saffron BJP scarf around his neck, Tejasvi addressed a meeting of chartered accountants of the constituency on Monday. His team, wearing the same shade of navy blue, shouted: "How's the josh! High Sir" and "Bharat Mata ki Jai".
From 60,000 his followers on Twitter have ballooned to nearly one lakh. Many of his more radical tweets have been circulated and retweeted by critics.
Tweets of 2012, 2013 cannot be held against him in 2019, he protested.
"Using those tweets and trying to say that this guy is a,b,c in 2019 shows that one, the opposition is rattled, two, it is desperate and three, it is bereft of any substantial issues against me," he told NDTV.
Does this mean that Tejasvi Surya, the BJP candidate, doesn't necessarily stand by his earlier tweets?
"On some I may have changed, some I may not have. It depends on the context. We evolve, we grow up, that's why we are human. We are not static, born perfect creatures," he said, summing it up as a "learning experience".
With a high-profile nomination comes more Twitter followers, and greater scrutiny. "In the last five days, I have been reminding myself that I have to grow up overnight and be much more mature and responsible and take people along. That's the job of a leader," said the millennial, whose tweet reacting to the BJP picking him began with "OMG, OMG!"
A section of BJP leaders felt the opposite when he was chosen over Tejaswini Ananth Kumar, the wife of Union Minister Ananth Kumar, who died last year.
Tejaswini Ananth Kumar had even started campaigning in Bangalore South, with Karnataka BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa recommending her name to party bosses and also telling NDTV that she was the candidate.
Awkward? "Ananth sir and Tejaswini Ma'am groomed me from my high school days, I have a strong personal bond with her...The beauty of a cadre-based party like the BJP is that once a decision is taken, everybody respects it."
His radical views, his social media posts, did they make him a liability for the party? Tejasvi replied: "If my PM thought I was a liability he wouldn't have decided to groom me in this fashion. His faith gives me strength."
The Bangalore South constituency votes on April 18, day two of the staggered national elections ending on May 19. The results will be declared on May 23.