Mumbai: Karnataka minister D.K. Shivakumar and his Congress colleagues Milind Deora and Naseem Khan were detained on Wednesday outside a hotel where rebel MLAs are holed up amid high drama and deepening uncertainty about the future of the state’s ruling coalition.
Mr Shivakumar, the Congress’ trouble-shooter who has helped the Congress-JD(S) government survive several crisis, was reportedly sent by Congress bigwigs to spirit away 10 Congress dissidents to a secret location and pull back the Congress-JD(S) government from the brink of collapse.
However, after trying for nearly 12 hours to enter the hotel where the rebel MLAs have been staying, he was “forcibly” evicted to Bengaluru.
Mr Shivakumar had been camping outside the Renaissance Hotel in Powai since morning, determined to meet the rebel MLAs.
Security personnel, camera crews, media personnel and political workers jostled with each other outside the luxury hotel that has become the centrepiece of the crisis in Karnataka. Slogans of “Shivakumar go back” were raised.
Shivakumar told reporters, “We want to have a secular government. I don’t want to trouble anyone. BJP is saying that they are not involved.”
“Their friends are telling that they are not involved either. But the former Speaker and former home minister of state came here, met them and took the letter from them (MLAs), given it to the commissioner and said that they don’t want to meet us,” he added.
“We are not interested in meeting him,” said rebel Congress lawmaker Ramesh Jarkiholi. “We don’t intend to insult D.K. Shivakumar. We have faith in him but there is a reason we have taken this step. We request him to understand why we cannot meet him today,” said rebel B. Basavaraj.
Mr Shivakumar was being interviewed by a TV channel when he was almost pulled away by Mumbai Police and detained. Former Union minister Deora and former Maharashtra minister Khan, who had come to meet him, were also detained.
All three were taken to the BKC police guesthouse.
“We are currently being detained by Mumbai Police in spite of zero provocation. We did not protest, raise slogans or mobilise karyakartas. This is a blatant example of state-sponsored intimidation,” Mr Deora tweeted.
After being detained by Mumbai police, Mr Shivakumar was taken to Mumbai airport and made to board a flight to Bengaluru. Mr Deora claimed the Mumbai police had “forcibly deported” the minister.
Mr Shivakumar had reached the hotel at 8.20 am but was stopped by police from entering. His plea that he had a valid reservation in the hotel fell on deaf ears.
Officials, it is learnt, told Mr Shivakumar that 10 of the 12 rebel MLAs in the hotel had written to the Mumbai Police chief that they feared a threat to their lives due to his arrival, and that Mr Shivakumar should be prevented from entering the hotel.
In their letter the legislators had also said that they don’t want to meet Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy either.
“We have received a letter from the rebel MLAs,” a senior police official said.
Mumbai Police has imposed prohibitory orders near the hotel where the rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs from Karnataka are staying, an official said. The entire stretch leading to the hotel was lined with security personnel.
But Mr Shivakumar, who was accompanied by senior JD(S) MLAs, stood his ground, saying that politics is an art of the possibility and he would not leave without meeting friends.
He told reporters he had “come in peace” and had no intention of threatening the rebel MLAs.
He added that he had come unarmed and just wanted to have coffee with his friends. “I don’t want to harm anyone,” he said.
“I haven’t brought any security force or weapon, I only have my heart with me. I want to meet my friends and have coffee with them. If the BJP is not involved then why are we not being allowed to enter,” he said.
As the showdown intensified, an e-mail from the hotel to the travel agency which had booked a room on Mr Shivakumar’s behalf revealed that the reservation was cancelled due to “some emergency”.
Twelve MLAs — seven of the Congress, three of the JD(S) and two Independents — are in the city since Saturday after resigning from the Karnataka Assembly and withdrawing support to the coalition government.
Of the 14 MLAs who have resigned, 11 are from Congress and three from JD(S)....