BJP's candidate from Bangalore South Tejasvi Surya has come out in support of his colleague Pratap Simha, who is currently facing allegations of mental and physical harassment of an unidentified woman, while lambasting the Congress for attempting to derail the election campaign of its opponents using "dirty tricks" and "doctored content".
This comes in the backdrop of a complaint being lodged with the state's Women Commission against Simha - BJP's candidate from Mysuru - for allegedly mentally and physically harassing the said woman.
In an exclusive interview with ANI on Wednesday, Surya, who also faced similar allegations in the recent past, said," I am surprised, rather appalled that Congress is derailing election campaigns of its opponents using such dirty tricks. Issues of elections are very different, issues are related to jobs, performance of the government in the last five years and aspirations of young India."
"Centrally, your(Congress) campaign is based on lies, fake news, and manufactured issues and on the local level, it is sinister personal campaigns using doctored videos and character assassination of people. Is this the level to which Congress wants to stoop, adulterate and pervert political discourse?" he asked.
Recently, Congress had said BJP has given tickets to "firebrand leaders" in the ensuing elections, including Surya, Simha and Nalin Kumar Kateel.
In response to this, the 28-year-old leader said, "You must ask the Congress what they mean by firebrand. Congress party, of course, has no ideology, and therefore, no courage of conviction. If I have a few ideas which I feel will be good for my country, and I have the courage of conviction to stand by them and see them through, if you want to brand them as firebrand, well, alright."
"Why should an ideology which speaks for inclusiveness, true liberalism, taking everyone into confidence, accepting diversity, being non-judgmental about everyone's beliefs and faiths, why should this be diluted? That's the ideology of the RSS, rather of Hindutva," he mentioned when asked about the dilution of his ideology, if any, post his entry into politics.
"I want my country to be liberal, celebrate its diversity, respect differences and I, as a millennial, value personal freedom and individual choices to a great extent," he added.
Recently, a black box was allegedly unloaded from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's chopper in Chitradurga and loaded in a haste into a white SUV. Following this, Congress urged the Election Commission to launch a probe into the matter.
However, Surya dismissed Congress' inhibitions and termed it a "figment of their imagination."
"They have a lot of time on their hands, we have an election to fight. Let them keep dreaming and imagining these things," he quipped.
Surya, however, clarified that he did not try to gag the media, but only approached the court to remind media houses to not publish defamatory content against him.
"I didn't try to gag the media, don't even know who came up with this term. It is not in good taste to publish defamatory news. All I did was to try and take a constitutional recourse. I learnt that there are certain sections of the society with a vested interest who were trying to defame me in an unreasonable manner. I approached the courts, which is a legal thing to do, and the court only reminded the media that they are not supposed to publish anything defamatory. If publishing defamatory content is the right of media, I am at a loss of understanding of journalism," he explained.
After the 'gag order' was imposed by a Bengaluru sessions court, nearly 50 media outlets in India and a number of global digital media firms had been temporarily barred from publishing 'defamatory content' about Surya.
However, a division bench of the Karnataka High Court later said the media can publish content about the BJP leader, other than defamatory news.
"The only thing the court did was tell the media not to publish anything defamatory. What surprised me was that when that order came, it was termed as a gag order. Then the High Court said the same thing that I said. The media gave this a spin and said 'setback to Tejasvi Surya.' But the court did not say they have set aside the injunction. Reading of the judgments of the court was not too right by my friends in the media," Surya said on Wednesday while mentioning that there was nothing "sour" between him and the media.
"The media has been very kind to me. In fact, some seniors have guided me," he added.
When asked about the semblance of a "Modi wave" in the state, Surya said those who were of this opinion are "disconnected" from the political reality on the ground.
"I can only pity them. The kind of reception Narendra Modi got here was historic, and his popularity is on the ascendance. As far as South India is concerned, we will do exceedingly well in Tamil Nadu and perform superbly in Kerala. We are sure of winning Thiruvananthapuram," he said.
"The BJP will definitely defeat Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram. There is a massive undercurrent today in favour of Kummanam Rajasekharan. We're going to be sweeping Thiruvananthapuram," the 28-year-old asserted.
"It has been a great learning experience for me. I have a lot of seniors to guide me on the journey. My travels and interactions have also given me insight. I have realised that people are no more different than me. Issues I speak about resonate with them. Digitally I've tried reaching out to as many people as I can in the last 14 days," he added.
Surya also exuded confidence in him winning by a "record margin" in Bangalore South, where he is up against Congress' BK Hariprasad.
Polling in Karnataka, where 28 Lok Sabha seats are at stake, will be held in two phases - on April 18 and 23. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)