It was 4:10 pm on Wednesday afternoon when Chikkaballapura's Congress MLA K Sudhakar entered the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru to submit his resignation from the Karnataka Assembly.
He strode into the Speaker's office along with fellow MLA MTB Nagaraj (Hoskote). What followed was chaos and mayhem for over two hours, with politics in Karnataka hitting a new low.
K Sudhakar walking into the Speaker's office at Vidhana Soudha
Sudhakar left the Speaker's office around 10 minutes after he entered, refusing to speak to the line of reporters outside the office. But his day did not end there.
As he was exiting the elevator on the ground floor of the building, he was mobbed by a group of Congress leaders including Priyank Kharge, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President Dinesh Gundu Rao and former MLC Nazeer Ahmed.
Pushing and pulling him, screaming at him alongside media-persons jostling to catch a glimpse of the action, a ring of top leaders of the Congress surrounded Sudhakar behaving like a frenzied mob.They forced Sudhakar to go upstairs to the third floor of the Vidhana Soudha for a discussion in the office of another senior Congress leader KJ George, who recently resigned as Minister of Large and Medium Scale Industries.
The news of the incident spread through the building and the line of reporters stationed outside the Speaker's office quickly tried to make their way up to the third floor. However, the entry to the floor was barred by policemen who refused to allow journalists inside.
A heated argument followed and the journalists demanded the police to show the written order that allowed them to seal the entry to the floor.
But the argument was halted when former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah arrived on the scene and the doors to the third floor swung open for him immediately. This journalist and a few others managed to sneak inside before the doors were shut again.
On the third floor, a group of policemen stood in front of the door leading to the office of KJ George even as reporters, camera-persons, Congress and BJP supporters, and officials working in the Vidhana Soudha, struggled for space in the narrow corridor.
Policemen, attempting to shield the MLAs, tried to push reporters and camera-persons trying to catch a glimpse of the discussion between Sudhakar and other Congress leaders outside the meeting room. "Stop them from manhandling an MLA instead of stopping us from reporting on your antics," came a reply from the crowd of reporters.
But after repeated attempts to rough up journalists failed, police officials decided to cordon off the entry to the meeting room.
The drama then shifted to the showdown between the political leaders. BJP leaders led by Renukacharya, SR Vishwanath, and Basavaraj Bommai launched a protest just outside the office of KJ George against the 'manhandling' of Sudhakar.
BJP leaders sit in protest
The leaders began chanting "Down Down Congress" in a manner similar to the way they had protested at the Gandhi Statue inside the Vidhana Soudha earlier in the day.
Throughout the commotion, Sudhakar continued to remain inside the meeting room in discussion with senior Congress leaders. The leaders desperately tried to talk Sudhakar out of resigning from the Assembly.
Sudhakar in discussion with senior Congress leaders
As discussions continued inside, Congress leaders including MLC Ivan D'Souza arrived outside the meeting room which led to more police officials rushing to the third floor corridor to bring the situation under control. Bengaluru Commissioner Alok Kumar also entered the meeting room only to come outside moments later. No action was taken by the police on either group of MLAs as tension continued to prevail over the third floor corridor.
By this time, it was impossible to move in the corridor jam-packed with people trying to grasp the developments. The ruckus continued despite the best attempts of Dinesh Gundu Rao to pacify the protesting BJP leaders.
Eventually, the police managed to escort Sudhakar out of the meeting room and out of the building at 6:20 pm, almost two hours after he had entered it. Understandably, he left in a hurry without offering a comment to reporters desperate to ask him what happened inside the meeting room.
Priyank Kharge soon followed Sudhakar out giving journalists choking outside in the corridor with an update. "We did not 'kidnap' him. I requested him to meet the KPCC President (Dinesh Gundu Rao) in private and he came. We asked him to reconsider (his resignation)," he said.
Contrary to media reports, @mla_sudhakar was not man handled by anyone. He is a friend of mine & I requested him to speak to PCC President in private for which he obliged. BJP as usual twisting facts to use this as fodder for their shameful #OperationKamala— Priyank Kharge (@PriyankKharge) July 10, 2019
The BJP in Karnataka was quick to criticise the senior Congress leaders for "assaulting and locking up a elected representative" inside the Vidhana Soudha.
You @dineshgrao & @PriyankKharge have murdered the democracy by assaulting & locking up a elected representative MLA Dr K Sudhakar inside Vidhana Soudha today— BJP Karnataka (@BJP4Karnataka) July 10, 2019
Your actions are a disgrace to constitutional values of this nation
Hang your head in shame @siddaramaiah https://t.co/46Jc35ZUgW
KPCC President Dinesh Gundu Rao responded by claiming there was no 'manhandling' of Sudhakar and questioned the BJP leaders agitating.
There was no manhandling of @mla_sudhakar by our leaders. He is our colleague and we had a long cordial conversation with him.— Dinesh Gundu Rao / ದಿನೇಶ್ ಗುಂಡೂರಾವ್ (@dineshgrao) July 10, 2019
But why were BJP leaders agitating & indulging in goondaism.
It clearly shows their hand behind these defections.#BJPKidnapsMLAs
Even in a week of high drama in Karnataka's political circles, two hours at the Vidhana Soudha on Wednesday evening showed how low democracy can go when political leaders resort to desperate means. There is also no end in sight to the drama with the monsoon session of the Karnataka Assembly scheduled to begin on Friday. If this was any indication, the session is expected to be equally chaotic.