Karnataka CM B S Yediyurappa Wednesday ordered the police’s crime branch to investigate allegations raised by BJP MP Tejasvi Surya and two party MLAs, including Surya’s uncle, of a scam in the Bengaluru municipal corporation’s bed allotment system for Covid patients – the MP and MLAs also questioned the presence of 17 Muslim workers among 205 in the system.
While Joint Commissioner of Police (crime) Sandeep Patil said two police complaints have been filed and four persons, including a woman, arrested so far, Surya’s allegations left the BJP government red-faced after senior Congress leaders congratulated the MP and attacked the administration.
The allegations, which were raised Tuesday, also led to a joint commissioner in the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike), Sarfaraz Nawaz, finding himself at the centre of a social media backlash. Taking to Facebook, Nawaz said he was not involved with the allocation and was handling Covid Care Centres and solid waste management.
“I am completely pained because a communal angle is given to this issue by blaming me who has no knowledge and concern with that department,” the BBMP official said. On Wednesday, Surya clarified that he did not take Nawaz’s name and apologised to the official.
Police have identified two of those arrested as Netravathi and Rohit Kumar. They said the arrests were based on a tip-off that the two were acting as agents for booking beds in Bengaluru.
On Tuesday, Surya, who is being groomed by a section in the BJP for a larger political role, claimed to have unravelled a scam that has led to a shortage of beds.
“There is a nexus of certain BBMP officers, Arogya Mitras (hospital liaison officers) and certain outside agents who have created a bribe for bed scam. Beds are blocked in the names of asymptomatic patients without the knowledge of the patients who are at home. Thereafter the agents speak to the people in the war room (for bed allocation) and get the blocked bed allotted to people who are willing to pay,” the MP said.
“More than 4,065 cases have come to light following our analysis where booked beds have got unblocked. A bed is blocked for 12 hours and afterwards it is sold — if unsold the bed is unblocked,” Surya said.
Later, one of several videos released by the MP’s team showed Surya, his uncle Ravi Subramanya and Sathish Reddy — both are MLAs in south Bengaluru — questioning workers in the BBMP’s south zone war room on the presence of 17 Muslims among staff at the facility.
“Who are these people, who recruited them, how were they recruited?” the video shows Surya asking. “Have you recruited people for a madrasa or for the city corporation?” it shows Subramanya asking. “Is it a Haj Bhavan list?” Reddy is seen asking.
State Congress chief D K Shivakumar congratulated Surya, Reddy and Subramanya “for exposing corruption in bed allocation by their party’s government and corporation”. “They should immediately name the BJP minister responsible for making people suffer so much,” he said.
Senior party leader and ex-CM Siddaramaiah said it is “really unfortunate and insensitive on the part of” Surya “to communalise the issue”.
Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai promised action and said the government will start a daily bulletin on bed positions in the state’s hospitals for Covid treatment.