Mumbai | He flew down to Mumbai as a Congress troubleshooter with a mission to save the wobbly coalition government in Karnataka, but minister D K Shivakumar hardly found any support from the Maharashtra unit of his party in his task and was sent packing to his home state.
Shivakumar, Karnataka’s Water Resources Minister and Congress leader, landed here early Wednesday and drove to the luxury hotel where rebel MLAs from his state are stationed.
He was on a mission to woo back the rebel MLAs and save the 13-month-old Congress-JDS government in Karnataka.
Police prevented him from entering the hotel and his plea that he had booked a room in the suburban property failed to elicit any response from police officials.
Elected representatives of the Maharashtra Congress were busy making veiled attack against each other while Shivakumar sat precariously on the hotel boundary wall with his feet dangling over a storm water drainage opening after being stopped from going inside.
Just a handful of Mumbai Congress leaders, including Sanjay Nirupam, Milind Deora, Naseem Khan, Ganesh Yadav (city Youth Congress president) and one local corporator, came to meet Shivakumar when he was detained and being taken to a guest house in Kalina campus of the Mumbai University.
State-level Congress leaders were conspicuous by their absence and these included some who were hosted by Shivakumar in 2002 when the government of then Congress Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in Maharashtra was on the verge of collapse.
Shivakumar, who comes from the Vokkaliga community, was received at the airport by members of an outfit of his community based in Navi Mumbai.
“We came to know that he is coming to Mumbai so we went to receive him at the airport,” said a community member who accompanied the minister to the hotel.
“We have a personal relationship with Shivakumar and some MLAs from Karnataka as our forefathers hailed from that state. Some of us still have connection to our villages through relatives and extended families,” he said.
Yadav arrived at the Renaissance in Powai at around 11 am, when Shivakumar was outside the hotel and was informed about cancellation of his booking.
Nirupam reached at the gates of the hotel a few minutes before Deora and Khan, a local Congress MLA.
After spending some time with Shivakumar and a couple of his colleagues, Nirupam spoke separately to the media at the hotel as well as outside the Kalina campus where the Karnataka minister was shifted by the Mumbai police.
Nirupam’s act was openly criticised by Maharashtra Congress MLC Bhai Jagtap through his tweeter account @BhaiJagtap1.
Jagtap said, “Teen din se jo aarop ye aarop lagaa rahe the-aaj ladai shuru hui to gaayab hain! Giraftaree unhone di jo apani rajneeti shati aur sanyam se karate hain. Waqt aane par kaun khada tha ? Kaun bhag gaya?”
(The one levelling charges after charges for the last three days was missing today when the battle (Karnataka crisis) began. Those who offered to be arrested, carry out their politics peacefully and patiently. At right time, who was standing (with leaders) and who ran away?”).
Interestingly, the management of the hotel, after preventing Shivakumar from entering the premises, offered a couple of chairs and hot coffee to him and his aides during their five-hour long wait at the gates.
It has been said that a BJP MLC from Maharashtra is facilitating the stay of rebel MLAs at the hotel.
In 2017, Shivakumar had played a key role in Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s election to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat.
There are around 40 Congress MLAs in Maharashtra, but except Khan, no one turned up Wednesday to extend support to Shivakumar in his mission to meet the rebel legislators and persuade them to withdraw their resignations.
The hotel is located in an area which is part of Khan’s assembly constituency Chandivali.
The Congress MLA arrived at the hotel at around 1 pm and stayed with Shivakumar till he was taken by the police to the airport.
Shivakumar, who reached the hotel at 8.20 am, was sent back to Bengaluru by the police in the evening.
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 and withdrawing support to the coalition government.