‘Students forced to join BJP MP Tejasvi Surya rally,’ says NSUI; files complaint

The incident came to light after students — especially from Jain College in Bengaluru — shared screenshots of messages from WhatsApp groups.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Apr 05, 2024 | 7:00 AMUpdatedApr 05, 2024 | 9:17 AM

BJYM president and Bangalore South incumbent MP Tejasvi Surya filed nominations for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls on Thursday, 4 April, 2024.

The Karnataka wing of National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) registered a complaint with the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Thursday, 4 April, against BJP’s Bangalore South MP Tejasvi Surya, alleging coercive behaviour towards college students over their participation in his poll nomination rally.

The incident came to light after several students — especially from Jain College in the VV Puram area of Bengaluru — shared screenshots of messages from their college WhatsApp groups.

The messages, sent late on Wednesday night, threatened them with dire consequences if they failed to attend the BJP MP’s rally.

After the screenshots from the Jain College students went viral, several students from other colleges located within the limits of the Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency levelled similar allegations against Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) president Tejasvi Surya and his followers.

Soon after, leaders from Congress and its student wing NSUI sharply criticised the BJP MP.

NSUI alleged that the messages amounted to a violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC). Meanwhile, Congress’ Bengaluru South nominee and former MLA Sowmya Reddy demanded that the poll panel initiate action against Surya.

However, Jain College Principal Naveen Kumar claimed that these were fake messages, and that the college administration was also probing the matter.

Meanwhile, Tejasvi Surya filed his papers for the Bengaluru South seat on Thursday. He was accompanied by incumbent Union minister Anurag Thakur.

Also Read: Tejasvi Surya blames Congress for guarantees, calls protest for funds ‘drama’

College staff threatened us, say students

Several commerce-stream students of Jain College were shocked after one of their college staff allegedly put out a threatening message directing them to participate in Tejasvi Surya’s poll rally scheduled for Thursday.

The students said they received the message on their college’s WhatsApp group named “TSC -OUTBOUND 24” on Wednesday.

In a post on X, the handle “knownGhost”, who claimed to be a Jain College student, shared screenshots of the messages on Wednesday.

Jain College Tejasvi Surya Poll Rally Bangalore South Election Commission of India

Screenshot of deleted post on X.

One of the screenshots read: “Greetings members, Tomorrow all the members of the student council have to assemble near maiyas hotel Jayanagar at 9:00 AM for the Tejaswi Surya rally. [sic]”

It added: “You’ll be getting a T-shirt so don’t be late. Everyone has to be there at the reporting time and no excuses will be entertained. You will be getting attendance for this. Thank you! [sic]”

A day later, not only was the post nowhere to be found but even the account did not exist on the social media platform.

Meanwhile, several students reportedly raised objections as soon as the message was dropped in the group.

“Shouldn’t this be our right to come or not for the political rally and education and politics are two different things, right? Why should it be mandatory?” asked a student in the chat group.

One of the members apparently replied: “Greetings members, Before, you guys get into all of this, I would like to tell you guys that at the time of our fest Tejaswi Surya was obliged by the student council to attend our fest, and now it’s our turn to do the same. This is why it is compulsory for us to be there tomorrow as a council and nothing else. Anyone else having any other questions regarding this rally can text me personally [sic].”

The message exchanges purportedly showed that the college students were threatened over their attendance if they failed to turn up for the rally.

On anonymity, a student from Jain College told South First: “A college staff member sent the message in the WhatsApp group. Several raised objections, as they threatened to take away attendance.”

He added: “The college and political parties cannot force or intimidate students to participate in the political rally. It should left to every individual to decide.” He, however, refrained from answering any more questions.

Denying the students’ allegations, Jain College Principal Naveen Kumar told South First: “It was a fake message. We, too, are investigating it. Action will definitely be initiated against those responsible for it.”

Also Read: Eyewitness says Tejasvi Surya unlocked emergency exit aboard Indigo flight

NSUI wants Surya’s nomination cancelled

After the messages became public, NSUI’s Karnataka wing not only filed a complaint but demanded that the sitting MP’s nomination be disqualified.

NSUI Karnataka president NG Kirthi Ganesh and General Secretary Dhruv Jatti filed separate complaints before the Karnataka State Election Commission (SEC) on Thursday.

Highlighting the alleged coercive behaviour of Tejasvi Surya towards the students, NSUI demanded a thorough investigation into the matter and appropriate action.

NSUI national team member M Amaan Asim told South First: “NSUI has raised strong objections to Tejasvi Surya’s coercion and utilising his power and force as an MP to increase turnout for his rally.”

He added: “This is a clear violation of the freedom of every individual to decide whether they want to support a political candidate or not or to participate in such a political event.”

NSUI Karnataka general secretary Dhruv Jatti told South First: “Students residing in Bengaluru South received multiple messages from Tejasvi Surya and his office. Surprisingly, the faculty members of colleges stated that if these students did not attend the nomination (rally), their attendance would not be marked.”

He added: “This seems to be a direct murder of the democratic and constitutional right of each and every student. The fact that a political figure is leveraging his power to manipulate students to attend his nomination [rally] by threatening to cancel their attendance is quite bizarre.”

He also said: “Based on these grounds, NSUI has filed a complaint with the ECI to make sure that it looks into the violation of the MCC.”

Jatti continued: “We have also placed two demands in front of the ECI. They are either the disqualification of his nomination or a campaign ban on him during these elections. NSUI will continue to support every student that is facing BJP injustice.”

Also Read: Phone number of BJP MP Tejasvi Surya used to demand money, diamonds

Verifying, say election officials

On condition of anonymity, an election official told South First: “The incident has come to our notice. We have pressed the nodal officers into action to verify the incident.”

He added: “We will be able to ascertain whether this was a violation of the MCC only after a detailed verification. The nodal officers have contacted the college authorities as well.”

The poll official also said the SEC could not concentrate much on these issues as it was occupied with other poll-related works.

Meanwhile, a senior IAS officer told South First: “If a college staff shared the message in the institution’s legitimate WhatsApp group, it would amount to a violation of the MCC.”

He added: “Neither a college administration nor political parties can intimidate students into participating in political rallies. Importantly, the college cannot threaten students with denying attendance if they fail to participate in the rally.”

The IAS officer, who wished to be unnamed, also said: “If someone is compelled to participate in a poll rally in some other way like giving t-shirts, it is also clearly a violation of the MCC.”

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal)