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K’taka crisis deepens, 2 more Cong MLAs quit

PTI

Bengaluru/Mumbai

Two more Congress MLAs resigned Wednesday in another jolt to the beleaguered Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka whose survival played out in three cities amid high drama in Mumbai where police detained minister D K Shivakumar, on a mission to woo back a dozen rebels holed up in a luxury hotel. Housing minister M T B Nagaraj and
Sudhakar tendered their resignation to Assembly Speaker Ramesh Kumar, as the political crisis reached the Supreme Court where ten rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs moved a petition alleging that the Speaker was deliberately not accepting their resignations that gave a breather to the Kumaraswamy government.

With the two latest resignations, 16 MLAs – 13 from the Congress and 3 from the JD(S) – have quit while two Independent MLAs – H Nagesh and R Shanker – have already withdrawn support. The coalition’s total strength is 116 (Congress-78, JD(S)-37 and BSP-1), besides the Speaker.

With the support of the two independents, who Monday resigned from the ministry, the BJP has 107 MLAs in the 224-member House, where the half-way mark is 113. If the resignations of the 16 MLAs are accepted, the coalition’s tally will be reduced to 100.

As the political turmoil disrupted proceedings in the Rajya Sabha for the third day amid uproar by opposition Congress members, the Karnataka unit of BJP demonstrated outside the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru to press for Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s resignation claiming his government has lost majority.

But it was the mission of Congress’ troubleshooter Shivakumar to Mumbai with the aim of meeting the rebel MLAs and woo them back to the Congress fold that became the focus of the fast-paced developments during the day. The BJP is in power in Maharashtra.

Shivakumar and his Congress colleagues Milind Deora and Naseem Khan were picked up outside Renaissance Hotel in Powai and taken to the BKC police guesthouse where they were in custody for several hours. Shivakumar was later released and sent packing back to Bengaluru, Deora said, adding he and Khan were also released.

“Police are taking Shivakumar to the (Mumbai) airport. He is being forcibly sent back to Bengaluru,” Deora tweeted.

Congress MLC Bhai Jagtap said Shivakumar was taken to the airport by Mumbai police.

The Karnataka minister had been camping outside the hotel since morning, determined to meet the rebel MPs in a desperate bid to pull the Congress-JD(S) government from the brink of collapse.

Security personnel, camera crews, media personnel and political workers jostled with each other outside the luxury hotel that has become the centre piece of the crisis in Karnataka. Slogans of “Shivakumar go back” were raised and some people clambered on to the high gates of the hotel on the outskirts of the city.

Shivakumar was being interviewed by a TV channel when he was almost pulled away by Mumbai Police and detained. Shivakumar had reached the hotel at 8.20 am but was stopped by police from entering. His plea that he had a valid reservation in the hotel fell on deaf ears. Officials, it is learnt, told Shivakumar the rebel legislators had written to the Mumbai police chief that they feared a threat to their lives due to his arrival. But Shivakumar, who was accompanied by senior JD(S) MLAs, stood his ground, saying that politics is an art of the possibility and he would not leave without meeting friends. He told reporters he had “come in peace” and had no intention of threatening the rebel MLAs.

As the showdown intensified, an e-mail from the hotel to the travel agency which had booked a room on Shivakumar’s behalf revealed that the reservation was cancelled due to “some emergency”.

Ten of the 12 MLAs in the hotel have written to Mumbai Police, saying they feared a threat to their lives and Shivakumar should be prevented from entering the hotel. “We have received a letter from the rebel MLAs,” a senior police official said.

Mumbai Police has imposed prohibitory orders near the hotel where the rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs from Karnataka are staying, an official said. The entire stretch leading to the hotel was lined with security personnel and security had been stepped up since morning.

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