- DK Shivakumar camps outside Mumbai hotel where rebel leaders are
- Congress leader was stopped by cops; "Will wait here all day," he said
- Rebel lawmakers had told Mumbai cops state leaders may "storm" hotel
Congress leader DK Shivakumar was detained by the Mumbai police along with other party leaders from near a five-star hotel in Mumbai where he had waited for six hours to meet rebel lawmakers whose resignation has threatened the survival of the Karnataka coalition government.
Mr Shivakumar had been stopped from entering the Renaissance hotel after the rebels asked the Mumbai police for protection from him and other Karnataka coalition leaders who are trying to bring them around.
Waiting in the rain, Mr Shivakumar said he would not move until he spoke to the lawmakers who, on the other hand, refused to meet him.
"Shameful use of the police by the government," said the Congress troubleshooter, who has accused the BJP - which rules Maharashtra - of trying to engineer a crisis to seize power in Karnataka.
DK Shivakumar and Mumbai Congress leader Milind Deora were taken away by the police shortly after a ban on large gatherings was imposed in Powai, where the hotel Renaissance is located.
The Mumbai police had also posted scores of personnel at the hotel after the rebel lawmakers wrote to them asking for security and expressing the fear that Mr Shivakumar and Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy would try and "storm the hotel".
This morning, when Mr Shivakumar drove straight from the airport to the hotel, he was blocked by the police who said: "They (rebels) are frightened of you. We cannot allow you to enter because of the letter."
Amid "go back" slogans from protesters hanging off the gate, Mr Shivakumar flashed a hotel room booking and also claimed he wanted to have coffee in the hotel with his friends but the police refused to step aside.
"I'll not go without meeting my friends. They'll call me. Their heart will break. I'm in touch already, hearts of both of us are beating," Mr Shivakumar said, adding dramatically: "I have a heart, no weapons."
"We don't intend to insult DK Shivakumar. We've faith in him but there is a reason we have taken this step. Friendship, love and affection are on one side, with gratitude and respect we request him to understand why we cannot meet him today," said B Basavaraj, a rebel Congress lawmaker.
The hotel soon cancelled his booking, citing an "emergency". But the hotel staff served him doughnuts, tea and coffee, according to news agency ANI.
Five hours into his wait, the Karnataka leader was joined by his Congress colleague from Mumbai. Milind Deora sat with Mr Shivakumar under a tree outside the hotel.
Since last week, the year-old Congress-JDS coalition government in Karnataka has been fighting for survival with as many as 14 exits.
Thirteen rebels have been in Mumbai since they submitted their resignations on Saturday. If the resignations stand, the Karnataka coalition will lose its majority.
After a three-day gap, Speaker Ramesh Kumar examined the resignations yesterday and declared eight "not in order". This gave the coalition a tiny breather even though the BJP, confident of a majority, looks ready to strike.
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. They were represented in court by former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.
The rebel lawmakers, flown to Mumbai by a special plane linked to BJP parliamentarian Rajeev Chandrashekhar, had checked into Sofitel on Saturday and moved to the Renaissance Hotel on Monday. The BJP, which failed to form government in Karnataka last year after falling short of a majority, has denied any role in the coalition crisis. But the Congress pointed out that BJP leaders have been regular visitors to the Mumbai hotels where the lawmakers are staying.
The BJP, which will have a majority if the resignations hold, has launched protests and demanded that the coalition be sacked as it has lost its majority.
If the rebels don't waver, the Congress-JDS coalition's 118 members in the 224-seat state assembly will come down to 102 and the majority mark will drop from 113 to 105. The BJP has 105 members and the support of the two Independents, which takes its tally to 107.