Congress troubleshooter DK Shivakumar on Wednesday expressed hope of a plausible end to several days of high drama in Karnataka politics by his words: "all the rebel Congress-Janata Dal (S) MLAs would return home and the state government would survive the crisis".
Shivakumar said these words even as he was to be deported to Bengaluru -- and that too, forcibly.
According to official sources, Shivakumar, a ministerial colleague and two legislators who had gone to Mumbai were put aboard a scheduled flight at around 8 pm and reach Bengaluru by 10 pm.
NATAKA IN KARNATAKA
Shivakumar, known for his negotiation skills, has been responsible for forging the alliance between the Congress party and the Janata Dal (Secular) (JDS) in the state. He, thereby, took it upon himself to convince the rebel MLAs to dictate, if not negotiate, terms.
The rebel MLAs didn't relent and Shivakumar kept waiting outside the Mumbai hotel they had put up at -- which he was glad to.
The police weren't and detained Shivakumar.
Shivakumar was released from detention after around three hours -- following which he said: "It is shameful what the BJP has done to democracy... The government machinery is being misused."
"My friends were calling me to meet, but they were prevented. The police are deporting me to Bengaluru and I don't want to create any law and order situation here," he said.
"The police action against such a senior and respected leader is highly condemnable. This has never been witnessed in Maharashtra that senior ministers, elected legislators are prevented from meeting their own party colleagues. Instead, they were manhandled and ill-treated, pushed inside waiting vans and illegally detained for several hours," said former Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam.
Shivakumar and others reached Mumbai early on Wednesday and attempted to meet the 10 Karnataka legislators put up at the Hotel Renaissance in Powai.
However, he was hooted and heckled by some of the legislators and their supporters, and prevented by the police from entering the hotel premises though he had a suite booked in his name, which was later cancelled by the hotel.
"This is daylight murder of democracy. Shivakumar had the keys to his suite, but he was not allowed to go due to pressure by the BJP governments at the centre and in Maharashtra," Deputy Congress Leader in Maharashtra Assembly Naseem Khan told IANS after Shivakumar's release from detention.
As Congress leaders like Khan and Milind Deora started assembling outside the hotel to join Shivakumar and others from Karnataka, the police swooped on them, pushed them in waiting vans and took them to the University of Mumbai guesthouse on the Kalina Campus in Santacruz east.
Khan alleged that the Mumbai Police clamped prohibitory orders in the hotel's vicinity, warning Congressmen against going there.
Meanwhile, two more Congress MLAs have resigned on Wednesday evening, taking the total number of resignations to 16.
The rebel MLAs are likely to move the Supreme Court against Speaker Ramesh Kumar. The matter may come up on Thursday.
The 13-month old Congress-JD(S) government plummetted into a crisis following the resignation of 11 MLAs last week.
The Karnataka Assembly has 225 members, including one nominated MLA. If the resignations are indeed accepted by Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar, the ruling coalition's number in the 225-member House will drop from 118 to 101, 12 short of the majority mark.
To this end, the coalition is making all efforts to protect its government.
While the Congress party has been accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to topple the coalition government in the state, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy says the government will stay put come what may and the crisis will be resolved.
(with inputs from agencies)