The developing political crisis in Karnataka was dragged onto the streets of Mumbai as Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar was denied entry into Renaissance Hotel in Powai despite having a confirmed reservation.
The police set up a perimeter around the hotel where at least 10 rebel Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) legislators have been holed up since Saturday, after the rebel legislators wrote to the Mumbai police commissioner alleging a threat from Shivakumar and Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy.
“I have no weapons, only a heart," Shivakumar said in Mumbai. He sat outside the hotel for hours trying to establish contact with the rebels who were unwilling to meet the Karnataka irrigation minister as they feared that he would drag them back to Bengaluru.
“We do not want to meet Shivakumar and there is no question of taking back our resignations," said Ramesh Jarkiholi, one of the rebel legislators.
Shivakumar had travelled to Mumbai to try and persuade the rebels to reconsider their decision and save the year-old JD(S)-Congress coalition government that has been hit by a spate of resignations in the last one week.
The Karnataka minister was detained and taken away from the spot after several hours, but visuals of him sitting outside Renaissance Hotel on Wednesday were repeatedly shown by TV channels, cementing his position in the party.
“They sidelined him for years, there is no ignoring him now," said a Congress worker.
Almost 17 years after establishing himself as a “troubleshooter" for helping former Maharashtra chief minister Vilas Rao Deshmukh save his government, Shivakumar is on the threshold of another important chapter in his political career. His willingness to take on high-risk assignments for the party sets him apart.
For the ordinary party worker, Shivakumar is seen to be the only leader who is trying to save the government while other senior leaders such as Siddaramaiah, G. Parameshwara and Dinesh Gundu Rao hold meetings and fire salvos at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for its alleged role in the entire episode.
The sight of Shivakumar dragging in Anand Singh, a former mining baron who rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty till a few years ago, into the Assembly during the trust vote last year, remains fresh in the memory of most within the party.
The irrigation minister is credited with saving the party on more than one occasion and had even reconciled his differences with the first family of the JD(S) in the larger interest of the coalition.
He had in the past engineered the defeat of former Prime Pinister H.D. Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy’s wife Anitha.
Shivakumar’s brother D.K. Suresh is the sole Congress MP from Karnataka.
Since 2002, Shivakumar has shielded Congress legislators from Gujarat and Karnataka, by lodging them in resorts.
The income tax raids on the Congress leader from Karnataka was seen as an action taken out of political interests by the BJP against the Vokkaliga strongman. Shivakumar’s fans want him to be considered for the Congress top job in Delhi, after Rahul Gandhi stepped down as president.
“We don’t know if the government will stay or not, but we know that Shivakumar is the only one who tried to save it," said a close aide of the leader, requesting not to be named.
Prathma Sharma and Shashwati Das from New Delhi contributed to this story.