Two buses started from Bengaluru around 12:15 am on Thursday night and zoomed down the highway in scenes straight out of a thriller. On board were around 116 Karnataka lawmakers -- from the Congress and Janata Dal Secular (JDS) -- being driven to Hyderabad under secrecy as much as they could manage with media teams close behind.
- Journey of over 500 km from Bengaluru to Hyderabad took eight hours
- One of the buses stopped at Park Hyatt hotel in Hyderabad
- Another bus went to the Taj Krishna
Over an hour later, some of the lawmakers shifted to a third bus, a sleeper for a more comfortable ride. The lawmakers were no action stars, so they needed breaks, plenty of them, after a day of non-stop political drama.
The hide-and-seek started shortly after BJP's BS Yeddyurappa was sworn in, an abbreviated ceremony that followed a night-long Supreme Court hearing in which judges allowed the oath ceremony but raised questions about the 15-day period given by Governor Vajubhai Vala for a test of strength.
The BJP is eight short of the majority mark. The Congress-JDS hope that the time will be drastically cut short by the Supreme Court today.
To keep their lawmakers away from inducements, offers and threats from the BJP -- as they allege -- the Congress and JDS had planned chartered flights out of Bengaluru.
Around 11:30 pm, however, the flights were cancelled. "We didn't get permission... The airline operators refused," said Congress leader DK Shivakumar, who organised the bus trip to Hyderabad.
About an hour later, the buses drove out of Eagleton, a private resort in Bengaluru where the Congress lawmakers had been put up, and Shangri-La, a luxury hotel where the JDS legislators had been staying.
Around 1:30 am, the sleeper bus joined the little convoy. Water, blankets, food were arranged on the fly.
A journey of 500 kilometres took eight hours.
Around 5 am, as the lawmakers stopped for a tea or coffee break about 80 km from Hyderabad, Congress leader Madhu Goud Yashki spoke to NDTV.
"How shamelessly the BJP is asking MLAs... there is an anti-defection law. And JDS-Congress have clear numbers. But the BJP is openly poaching. And shamelessly the PM (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) supports it. They are acting like criminals," said the Congress leader.
He alleged that Congress lawmaker Anand Singh had been "kidnapped" on his way to Bengaluru yesterday and family members of legislators were being threatened.
The Congress has advised all its lawmakers to install an app that helps track and record phone-calls. They claim some chats have been recorded and "will be revealed at an appropriate time".
A plan to move the lawmakers to Kochi in Kerala also failed. "In Kochi we were told no rooms are available. We were told the BJP leadership is putting pressure on hotels and flights," said Mr Yashki.
"Hyderabad is the place we will protect democracy," he smiled.
One of the buses drove into Hyderabad and stopped at the Hyatt Regency. Another bus went to the Taj Krishna, where the hotel's staff were seen trying to ensure that the media did not enter the lobby.