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Karnataka ground zero in Mumbai: D.K. Shivakumar's bid to meet MLAs & the retaliation

Two more Congress MLAs resigned in the southern state and 10 Congress MLAs 'merged' with BJP in Goa

By K.M. Rakesh in Bangalore
  • Published 11.07.19, 7:17 AM
  • Updated 11.07.19, 7:17 AM
  • 2 mins read
Maharashtra police officers with Karnataka minister Shivakumar (with the moustache) outside Hotel Renaissance in Mumbai on Wednesday (PTI picture)

The BJP says it has nothing to do with the shenanigans in Karnataka.

  • Yet, most of the MLAs who have deserted the Congress-Janata Dal Secular ruling alliance in Karnataka are cooped up in a hotel in Mumbai, the capital of BJP-run Maharashtra.
  • On Wednesday, Mumbai police prevented Karnataka minister and Congress trouble-shooter D.K. Shivakumar from entering the property. The police cited a letter from the rebels, saying they feared for their lives if Shivakumar was allowed to enter the hotel and meet them.
  • Mumbai police clamped prohibitory orders around the hotel to facilitate the operation to block Shivakumar.
  • Eventually, Shivakumar and his companions were taken to a police guesthouse and detained. Shivakumar said in the evening he was being taken to the airport to be put on a plane to Bangalore.
  • Rarely has a police force of one state been dragged so blatantly into the political and legislative affairs of another state.

As Mumbai became the ground zero of Karnataka politics, two more Congress MLAs resigned in the southern state in a suspected poaching operation in slow motion.

Another flank was opened in the evening with 10 of the 15 Congress MLAs in Goa, a state where the BJP is already in power in spite of losing the Assembly elections, resigning and “merging” with the BJP. As the deserters account for two-thirds of the Congress tally, they can escape the defection law.

The Karnataka stage shifted to Mumbai early in the morning. Shivakumar and JDS leaders G.T. Deve Gowda and Shivalinge Gowda, having caught an early morning flight from Bangalore, arrived at Hotel Renaissance around 8.20am to try and persuade the rebels to withdraw their resignations and save Karnataka’s coalition government.

But police wouldn’t let them in, citing the letter from the rebels. They wouldn’t relent even after Maharashtra Congress leaders Milind Deora, Sanjay Nirupam and Naseem Khan arrived to support Shivakumar.

Shivakumar said he had booked a room at the hotel and insisted, perhaps in jest, that he was unarmed. “Allow me to go to my room. I want to meet my friends and have a cup of coffee with them,” he said.

A leaked email from the hotel to the travel agency that had booked the room for Shivakumar said the booking had been cancelled because of “some emergency”.

From inside the hotel, rebel Congress MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi told a TV crew, who had apparently been allowed to sneak in from the back, that none of them wanted to meet Shivakumar and denied any BJP role in their resignations or accommodation.

After the visitors had spent three hours standing on the roadside outside the hotel’s boundary walls — amid “go back” chants from BJP workers — the police brought chairs along with coffee and dumplings for them.

Earlier, Shivakumar had sat precariously on the boundary wall for a while, his feet dangling over a storm water drainage hole.

Shortly after 3pm, Shivakumar and his companions were taken to a police guesthouse and detained. Deora accused the Maharashtra government of “misusing police and state machinery”.

As K. Sudhakar, one of the two MLAs who resigned on Wednesday, was returning after submitting his resignation, a group of Congress members mobbed him and one of them grabbed him by the neck when he tried to escape.

State Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao and former minister Priyank Kharge intervened to cool things down. Congress and BJP members later jostled with each other, prompting the police to step in.

Accepting all the resignations would reduce the ruling alliance’s numbers to 102, against 107 of the BJP (including the support of the two Independents who have dumped the government). The monsoon session of the Karnataka legislature begins on July 12.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Thursday a petition by the rebel MLAs, seeking a directive to the Speaker to accept their resignations.

Additional reporting by PTI from Mumbai