It was high drama as Karnataka minister D K Shivakumar was Wednesday prevented from entering the luxury hotel where rebel MLAs are staying, prompting him to announce that he won't leave the spot till he gets to meet the legislators, in a bid to save the Congress-JD (S) government in the southern state.
After reaching the hotel at 8.20 am, Shivakumar, who landed here early in the morning, was stopped by police from entering the hotel. His plea that he had a valid reservation in the hotel fell flat on the police officials' ears.
They told him the legislators staying the hotel had written to Mumbai police chief saying they feared threat to their life due to his arrival there.
Shivakumar told the policemen that "Politics is the art of the possible" and he should be allowed to go into the room he had booked earlier.
After his entry was barred, the Congress leader stood outside the Renaissance Hotel in Powai that has become the centrepiece of the deepening political crisis in Karnataka.
Shivakumar said he had "come in peace" and had no intention of threatening the rebel MLAs. "The hotel authorities are saying that there is a security threat due to my presence here," he added.
He said he had come unarmed and just wanted to have coffee with his friends (rebel MLAs). "I don't want to harm anyone," he said.
"I haven't brought any security force or weapon, I only have my heart with me. I want to meet my friends and have coffee with them. If the BJP is not involved then why are we not being allowed to enter," he said.
There was high drama as security personnel, camera crews, media personnel and political supporters jostled with each other outside the luxury hotel. Another group shouted slogans such as "Shivakumar go back".
The Congress' troubleshooter, who was accompanied by senior JD(S) MLAs, said he will not leave without meeting the MLAs and stood his ground outside the hotel.
Congress leaders Milind Deora and Sanjay Nirupam also reached the spot and met Shivakumar.
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 though the room was booked, the reservation had been cancelled due to "some emergency" in the hotel.
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 have imposed prohibitory orders near the hotel where the rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs from Karnataka are staying, an official said.
"I am not afraid of slogans against me... not being permitted inside because of security threat. I have a lot of respect for the Maharashtra government. I don't have weapons," he said.
He wondered how his presence could possibly be a threat to the rebel legislators.
On his arrival, Shivakumar said, "Let the Mumbai Police or any other force be deployed. We have come to meet our friends. We are born together in politics and will die together."
If the BJP leaders can meet rebel MLAs, why can't he, Shivakumar asked.
"Mumbai has a good government.Chief Minister (Devendra Fadnavis) is my good friend. I have booked a room here. My friends are here, some disputes are there, they are my friends...if BJP leaders can meet, why can't we," he asked.
Shivakumar noted that he had earlier played "host to 120 MLAs from Maharashtra when Vilasrao Deshmukh was the chief minister".
Twelve MLAs -- seven of the Congress, three of the JD(S) and two Independents -- are in the city since Saturday after resigning from the Karnataka Assembly membership and withdrawing support to the state's coalition government.
The legislators in their letter said they don't want to meet Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy or Shivakumar and requested the city police not to allow them to enter the hotel promises, he said.
The letter had names and signatures of Shivram Hebbar, Pratap Gowda Patil, B C Patil, Byrati Basavraj, S T Somshekar, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Gopalaiyya, H Vishwanath, Narayan Gowda and Mahesh Kumutali.
The political crisis in Karnataka has also reached the Supreme Court with 10 rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs moving a plea, alleging that the state Assembly Speaker has been deliberately not accepting their resignations.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi took note of the submission of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the rebel MLAs, and assured him that it will see whether their petition can be listed for an urgent hearing on Thursday.
Of the 14 MLAs who have resigned, 11 are from Congress and three from JD(S).
The ruling coalition faces the threat of losing its majority if the resignations of the rebel MLAs are accepted.
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 14 MLAs are accepted, the coalition's tally will be reduced to 102. The Speaker has a vote.
Monsoon session of the Karnataka legislature would begin from July 12.