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Pratap Simha: A Heady Mix of Ambition, Controversy and Temperament

Not one of those who rose from the ranks, Simha was a surprise candidate for the Mysuru-Kodagu Lok Sabha seat. He was one of BJP’s ‘experimental’ candidates that the party wanted to try out in a few places.

Deepa Balakrishnan | CNN-News18deepab18

Updated:January 11, 2018, 10:53 AM IST
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Pratap Simha: A Heady Mix of Ambition, Controversy and Temperament
File photo of BJP MP Pratap Simha. (Twitter/ @mepratap)
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Bengaluru: He should not have done that, said a senior MLA of BJP MP Pratap Simha’s rash act in Mysore on Hanuma Jayanthi.

This past week, Simha has been the man of the moment – he first organised processions for Hanuma Jayanthi where he took on the police for “restricting” only Hindu festivals. He repeatedly reminded people through social media that the police allowed processions for Eid and Tipu Jayanthi but was bringing in ‘route plans’ for the Hanuma Jayanthi.

While he is known for his radical stance, there are many within the party who have disapproved of it this time.

And on the day of Hanuma Jayanthi, Simha decided to break the route plan.

After being stopped by police barricades and advised to stick to the designated route, footage shows Simha getting behind the wheel, mowing down the blockade and accelerating one, as police personnel behind it jump out of the way to save their lives.

He was arrested a few minutes later, released later that night; all this while the controversy continued to evoke curiosity and generate political interest.

He was stopped by police barricades and advised by policemen to stick to the approved route. Footage then shows Simha get behind the wheel himself, mow down the barricade, and continue to accelerate as policemen behind it jumped aside for their lives. He was arrested within a few minutes, released only later that night – the controversy continuing to evoke curiosity and political blame game.

A day later, another video of Simha became viral. The MP is presumably heard telling party workers, “When Amit Shah was here, he asked us – how many protests have you organised till now? I gave him the details. He then asked us how many of these protests have seen lathicharge, tear gas. I said, none. He told us to start getting aggressive. Hold fiercer protests. I assured him that in future we will hold such protests.”

A veteran MLA chided Simha for the video and said, “That is the kind of video you should not share on social media. Simha’s problem is that he speaks hastily. Does not think about the consequences and is always in a hurry. You must be more careful while speaking to people in front of the media.”

Trying to save some face, Simha tried to explain the barricade incident, saying, “The blockade fell while I was attempting a U-turn.” He did add to it and claim that his rights were curtailed and religious sentiments hurt on a festival day.

Not one of those who rose from the ranks, Simha was a surprise candidate for the Mysuru-Kodagu Lok Sabha seat. He was one of BJP’s ‘experimental’ candidates that the party wanted to try out in a few places.

“Sincere and temperamental,” says his second-in-command at the BJP Yuva Morcha, when asked to describe him.

Tejaswi Surya, the Yuva Morcha’s General Secretary, has known him over a decade. A lawyer by qualification, Surya says he has known Simha as one from a modest background, articulate, with a pan-Karnataka appeal because of his writings, and a strong ideological orientation towards the RSS.

“One thing you will notice about Pratap – people may say he is arrogant or temperamental, but nobody can deny the fact that what you see is what you get. He is a real guy. If he is angry at you, he is angry, he won’t sweet-talk you in the front and stab you in the back,” said Surya.

Pratap is also perhaps the only MP who has a Facebook page that says ‘Pratap Simha for CM’ – at a time when the BJP has officially declared its State president BS Yeddyurappa as its CM candidate. There are pictures that idolize him in a tough stance, with fan comments varying from ‘Hindu tiger’ to ‘Simha Garjane (roar of the lion)’.

While Surya defends it claiming freedom of speech, old-guard MLAs are miffed. “If he has even a little bit of common sense, he would have gotten the page removed. Would you allow a page that says you will next replace your boss? Your boss is certainly not going to be amused!” says a senior MLA, wishing to stay anonymous.

The first time the fire-brand MP came into the national limelight was perhaps when 11 ‘terrorists’ were arrested in August 2012 for allegedly trying to plot the killing of ‘VIPs’. Simha took over this space, claimed he was the intended target and tweeted photos. None from the police had taken his name.

Months later, all of the accused were released due to lack of evidence but Simha had already established himself as a ‘victim’.

His opportunity to fight the election came thanks to his proximity to well-known editor Vishveshwar Bhat. When you enter Simha’s home in Mysore, it has Bhat’s large portrait that strikes you as you reach the hallway – Bhat is his mentor, his guru. When the BJP went looking for a fresh face to field in a constituency that is the CM’s forte, it zeroed in on Simha.

His opportunity to win, however, was handed to him on a platter – Congress’ H Vishwanath had made comments ridiculing the majority Vokkaliga community. Simha, who comes from this community, got the whole-hearted support of this caste-base.

The Modi wave helped but even the Congress agrees that Simha came to reign because of Vishwanath and his loss of face for the voter.

“I know we erred in our choice of candidate – he (Vishwanath) had antagonised the Vokkaliga with his loose-talk. But I have heard even Simha’s party MLAs don’t approve of his methods. So I doubt they would want to give him the ticket a second time. The way he has handled things makes people wonder where he has come from and why he has that over-smart attitude,” says a Congress leader.

But Simha’s able aide Surya says this could be his trump card – he comes from nowhere and has made a name for himself.

“Why would they not give him a ticket? He is popular, has the support of the youth. He is in news for the right reasons and is putting up an ideological fight. In the larger picture, what he is doing for the party are beneficial than any faux pas,” he said.

Will Simha, considering his sudden growth in stature, be given a ticket for the forthcoming Assembly elections in 2018? Or will he fight the Lok Sabha seat in 2019? Sincerity and temperament aside, Pratap Simha has proven himself to be ambitious over the last three years.
| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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