In the wee hours of Saturday morning, 44 Congress MLAs from Gujarat were ferried to Bengaluru in a hurry.
This after six Congress MLAs defected to the BJP in a span of 24 hours. The high command ordered the remaining party legislators to pack up and fly to Karnataka – one of the remaining few Congress states and no stranger to resort politics.
Buffet and a relaxed stay
The Congress MLAs are in the trusted hands of Karnataka Energy Minister DK Shivakumar and his brother and MP DK Suresh, who are handling the logistics of the emergency trip.
While 30 MLAs have been put up at Eagleton Resort in Ramanagar’s Bidadi area, 10 of them are staying at Golden Palm Hotel and Spa, located off Tumakuru Road and four other MLAs have been put up at Clark Exotica in Devanahalli, said a Congress source to TNM.
According to the source, the cost of each room is between Rs 8,000 and Rs 10,000 per day, making the total cost of their stay close to Rs 4.5 lakh per day for the MLAs alone.
“After they MLAs arrived in the morning, they relaxed till the afternoon and then an elaborate buffet was organised for them. They had roti, naan, kulcha, dal, vegetable gravy, jalebi, moong dal fry, jeera rice, fried rice, mushroom manchurian and papad. They have access to the swimming pool, golf course, badminton court and a walking area. They are utilising the facilities and relaxing currently,” the source added.
As many as 120 rooms have have been booked in total as 30 to 40 members from Energy Minister DK Shivakumar's team have been stationed at Eagleton to supervise the MLAs' activities, the source said.
While a large contingent of the media is waiting outside Eagleton Resort, the movement into the hotel is strictly being regulated. The source said that 1 DySP, two inspectors and 25 constables have been deployed at the main gates to monitor those coming in and going out of the resorts.
Even as Congress leaders in Karnataka are making sure their stay is comfortable, three MLAs are reportedly keen on returning to Ahmedabad. These leaders were in touch with members of their constituency over the phone. After they rebelled inside the resort, all mobile phones of MLAs were confiscated.
Even the security personnel are not allowed inside the resort and bookings from other citizens are being denied.
Meanwhile, the MLAs have also requested the party seniors to allow them to visit the historical sites in Mysuru and Madikeri, now that they have landed in Karnataka, said the source.
Preparations are on for the MLAs from Gujarat for a site seeking expedition, the source said.
However, a party insider with knowledge about the goings-on at the resorts said that the mobile phones of nine MLAs have been confiscated and that the 'visit' to either Mysuru or Madikeri was actually a move to keep the leaders away from the BJP state leaders.
"There are plans to move them to a safer location where they cannot get in touch with BJP leaders," the source said.
‘Offering prayers to God’
“The MLAs are here to offer their prayers to God so that the Congress candidate bags a seat in the Rajya Sabha election. They are our guests and we have to ensure that they are treated well. Preparations are on for the MLAs to visit Mysuru and Madikere but the final decision will be made by Minister DK Shivakumar and his brother, MP DK Suresh,” the source added.
The Congress ferried its MLAs to Bengaluru as six leaders resigned on Friday and defected to the BJP, reducing the count of Congress MLAs in the Gujarat Assembly to 51.
These leaders will be go back to Gujarat on the eve of August 8, when elections for three Rajya Sabha seats will be held. Initially, the Congress had planned to lodged the leaders in Madikeri, but the plan was cancelled.
“The MLAs have to personally hand in their resignation to the Speaker. They cannot do it through email and phone. Even if they tender their resignation, the Speaker may consider it for review. Hence, they are being kept captive till the votes are cast. Unlike the Presidential election, this is not a secret ballot and the MLAs face chances of disqualification if they resort to cross voting,” the Congress source added.
Slamming the Congress’ move to lock up its MLAs, BJP state President, BS Yeddyurappa said that over 15 other MLAs were supposed to resign before the RS elections.
“Some MLAs had expressed their displeasure against Sonia Gandhi and wanted to be rid of the party. Now they are being locked up against their will,” Yeddyurappa added.
The exodus of MLAs is seen as a fallout of Shankarsinh Vaghela’s resignation from the Congress. Vaghela was considered the Congress party’s most powerful leader in Gujarat. He was also the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi told media persons that the MLAs were sent to Bengaluru as the BJP was indulging in “horsetrading of MLAs”.
“Crores of rupees have been spent in horse-trading in Gujarat by the BJP. MLA Punabhai Gamit was offered Rs 10 crore to join hands with the BJP. Some MLAs were threatened, coerced and made to feel unsafe in their own state,” he added.