A dramatic airport "chase" after which a Congress leader alleged that an independent lawmaker had been "hijacked" has been held by the party as proof of the BJP's role in engineering the Karnataka coalition crisis. The BJP appoints its chief ministers "in bars and restaurants", a senior Congress leader said on Tuesday.
H Nagesh, the independent lawmaker who quit the coalition government on Monday, barely a month after he was made minister, was seen in photos at the Bengaluru airport, boarding a special plane that flew him to Mumbai.
One of the two men walking with Mr Nagesh on the tarmac was reported to be the personal assistant of Karnataka BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa.
While multiple BJP leaders, including Mr Yeddyurappa, have rubbished talk of their involvement in a resignation spree in the Congress-Janata Dal Secular coalition, the airport photos were described by the Congress as a dead giveaway.
"There is a BJP hand in the Karnataka crisis. Yeddyurappa's PA was in the plane with rebel MLAs. BJP appoints Chief Ministers in bars and restaurants. They have done this before in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh," said senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Karnataka minister DK Shivakumar, the Congress's chief troubleshooter in the state, said yesterday that Mr Nagesh had called and complained that he was being "hijacked".
"Just now Mr Nagesh called me and said that he has been hijacked by Mr Yeddyurappa's personal attendant and the BJP. By the time I reached airport the flight had left," Mr Shivakumar told reporters.
The comment highlighted the Congress's complete desperation as it watches lawmakers slip away, leaving its one-year-old coalition fighting for survival.
Mr Shivakumar also flew to Mumbai, where the dissident lawmakers were taken and put up in a five-star hotel after their resignation on Saturday. The lawmakers, who have apparently refused to return to their parties, have rebuffed all overtures. They were moved to Pune and then Goa.
Ten Congress and three JDS lawmakers have quit since last week.
If the resignations are accepted, the Congress-JDS coalition's 118 members in the 224-seat state assembly will come down to 103 and the majority mark will drop from 113 to 105. The BJP has 105 members and the support of the two Independents, taking its tally to 107.