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From Assistant Head Boy in School to MP Ticket, The Meteoric Rise of BJP's Bangalore South Candidate Tejasvi Surya

File Photo of BJP Bengaluru South Constituency candidate Tejaswi Surya greeting supporters during a road show of BJP President Amit Shah in Bengaluru.

File Photo of BJP Bengaluru South Constituency candidate Tejaswi Surya greeting supporters during a road show of BJP President Amit Shah in Bengaluru.

While Surya won the prestigious Bangalore South Lok Sabha seat, critics feel the BJP should have given the ticket to someone with more political experience.

Bengaluru: In a barely furnished house in south Bengaluru’s Girinagar, Tejasvi Surya has invested the most in one room — a bedroom that has been converted into a studio, complete with hi-tech lights, cameras, a green chroma backdrop. The room is designed for photo and video shoots, used by Surya over the last two years for all his social media videos and messaging as a BJP worker.

“This is the only room I use currently, otherwise the entire house was a temporary campaign office,” Surya said when we met him two days before votes were counted on Thursday. The marketing-and-messaging strategy, perhaps, relates best to what the party has always been known for.

At 8.21 pm on March 25, a day before the last date to file nominations to the Bangalore South Lok Sabha seat, Surya had tweeted from a streetside chaat shop, “Pani Puri at Girinagar Circle is a must try. If you happen to pass by this circle, stop and have two plates minimum!”

Seven hours later in the middle of the night, he tweeted, “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.”

The youngest BJP MP candidate said he fought his first election for the post of an assistant head boy at his school in class 7. Surya emerged victorious as he was the only one who took the campaign seriously – he printed pamphlets, did powerpoint presentations in the auditorium, and even has his own symbol, a lion.

From School Boy to an MP ticket is a long leap, no doubt, but Surya said all his campaigns are oriented towards the youth.

A former Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and Yuva Morcha leader, Surya participated in rallies such as the ‘Mangalore Chalo’ bike rally ahead of the Assembly elections last year. A lawyer by training, he has represented many BJP leaders – Surya defended PostCard News editor Mahesh Hegde in a cyber-crime case against him, Mysore MP Pratap Simha in other matters, and even assisted Ashok Harnahalli in corruption cases against BJP supremo BS Yeddyurappa.

In its recommendations to the national leadership, the Karnataka BJP had proposed Tejaswini Ananth Kumar, wife of former Union minister Ananth Kumar, for this constituency. Tejaswini Ananth Kumar had been sounded off, printed pamphlets, and had inaugurated the party’s campaign offices along with campaign in-charge R Ashok.

Two days later, she found her name missing from the first list of candidates. Her name was not absent from the second list too.

“No,” Surya said with a wry smile when asked if he felt Tejaswini Ananth Kumar was wronged by the BJP. “I don’t even think she feels she is wronged. She is a senior and will obviously mentor many youth,” he added.

A BJP insider said the decision to not field Tejaswini Ananth Kumar was taken first, then the quest for alternatives started. Prominent legislators such as Suresh Kumar were considered. Kumar, the MLA from Rajajinagar, spoke to other legislators from Bangalore South and then politely refused to contest. He later switched off his phone and remaining incommunicado for the rest of the days before the deadline to file nominations arrived.

A few others suggested the name of Basavanagudi MLA Ravi Subramanya, who is Surya’s paternal uncle. It was only then that Surya's name emerged — for a national debut from a seat that has been a BJP bastion since 1991.

“When we heard that he has been chosen, our first thought was, ‘Oh the guy who has asked for an election ticket every election, from the corporation to the Assembly.’ Many party MLAs from the south were unhappy. Their choice was sidelined. And they would now have to work with someone half their age and who occupies at a higher position,” said a BJP MLA and an insider.

That's one of the reasons none of the five MLAs of BJP from the Bangalore South constituency took any major interest in his campaign — they weren't even present when Surya filed his nomination.

“Truth be told, it's not a great political beginning for a 28-year-old. They should have waited for a little more political experience, maybe the next election. But the party is trying some kind of experiment, let's see how it goes… when you have an MP so young and from such a high-profile constituency, you need to know he will be watched from the word go. The smallest mistakes will be noticed," said another BJP MLA.

That's already been seen, with the Twitteratti pulling out Surya’s old tweets and wondering what he means by opposing equal representation for women — he had once tweeted that he "dreaded the day women's reservation becomes a reality".

Surya deleted the tweet the day he filed his nomination.

Debutant he may be, but not a novice.