MUMBAI: The Karnataka coalition crisis took a stunning turn today as senior Congress leader DK Shivakumar was stopped from entering the five-star hotel in Mumbai where rebel lawmakers are staying, after they wrote to the police for protection from him. “They are frightened of you. We cannot allow you to enter because of the letter,” a Mumbai police officer was heard saying during an argument with Mr Shivakumar, who insisted he had booked a room in the Renaissance hotel and could not be stopped from entering it.
“I won’t go, I will wait here all day,” Mr Shivakumar told the police, just outside the gate where protesters – hanging off the gate — shouted: “Go back.”
“Allow me to go to my room, I want to meet my friends, sit, relax, have coffee with them,” the Congress leader, known for his troubleshooting skills, told the media as the police firmly blocked him.
The hotel has reportedly now cancelled his booking, citing an “emergency”.
Refusing to budge, even when it started raining, Mr Shivakumar hit out at the BJP, which rules Maharashtra. The BJPs hand in destabilizing the Congress-Janata Dal-Secular government in Karnataka was obvious, he said.
Last night, the rebel Karnataka lawmakers had asked the police for protection from their own Chief Minister, HD Kumaraswamy and Mr Shivakumar, who are attempting to bring them back. Mr Kumaraswamy and Mr Shivakumar could “storm” their hotel and should not be allowed on the premises, 10 lawmakers wrote to the Mumbai police chief.
Heavy security was posted at the Renaissance hotel soon after the letter.
Mr Shivakumar, a Karnataka minister and the Congress’s chief crisis man, arrived in Mumbai this morning and declared: “We’ve come to meet our friends. We were born together in politics, we will die together in politics. They are our party men.”
Undeterred, Mr Shivakumar proceeded to the hotel and argued with the police at the gates, determined to contact the rebels whose resignations, if accepted, will plunge the Congress-JDS coalition government into a minority.
Mr Shivakumar was also seen trying to call one of the rebels on the phone during the exchange with the police, who said he could enter only if the lawmakers permitted it.
Since last week, the year-old Congress-JDS coalition government in Karnataka, wobbly from the start, has been fighting for survival with as many as 14 exits.
Mr Shivakumar’s efforts had kept the coalition running, despite unending dissension, for over a year. This time, he faces a group of lawmakers who have refused to change their mind after submitting their resignations on Saturday.
“We have heard that Shri Kumaraswamy and Shri Shivakumar are going to storm the hotel premises and we feel threatened because of the same. We do not want to meet him. Kind request to help us in this matter and do not allow them to enter the hotel premises,” the rebels had written to the Mumbai police last night.
Over 100 Mumbai policemen are guarding the gates of hotel Renaissance.
Karnataka Speaker Ramesh Kumar on Tuesday ruled that eight resignations were not in order, giving the government a breather. None of the lawmakers had met him, the Speaker told the Governor in a letter. Though the ruling coalition won a little more room for leaders like Mr Shivakumar to try and pacify the rebels, more exits may be inevitable.
The rebels have gone to the Supreme Court, alleging that the Speaker has “abandoned his constitutional duty and is deliberately delaying accepting their resignations. Their case will be taken up tomorrow.
The rebel lawmakers had checked into Sofitel in Mumbai on Saturday evening and moved to the Renaissance Hotel in Powai on Monday.
The BJP, which will have a majority if the resignations stand, has launched protests and demanded that the coalition be sacked as it has lost its majority. Karnataka BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa is on a sit-in protest outside the Vidhana Souda or assembly building in Bengaluru.
Mr Shivakumar has accused the BJP of engineering the resignations, and then ferrying the lawmakers to Mumbai on special flights. The Congress also pointed out that BJP leaders have been regular visitors to the Mumbai hotels where the lawmakers are staying.