Till late Thursday evening, the decision was that Kochi will be the destination for the Congress and JD(S) legislators. Kerala Tourism minister K Surendran had even extended a personal invite on Twitter, promising they will be taken care of and kept safe from horse traders.
Staying at Eagleton resort in Bidadi on the outskirts of Bengaluru no longer seemed a safe option. A new SP for Ramanagara district – where the resort is located – had been appointed, in a curious set of transfers effected by BS Yeddyurappa hours after he took oath as Chief Minister. And security outside the resort had been withdrawn.
But then the Congress leaders claimed the authorities did not give their special charter flights to take off from Bengaluru airport. Union Civil Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha clarified, saying the DGCA has no role in the matter, but permission for domestic charter flights is needed from the local Air Traffic Control. That put a spanner in the works, and Kochi by the air route was ruled out.
The bus route to either Kochi or Puducherry was explored next. The hitch, however, was a trust deficit in the Tamil Nadu government. Given the animosity over Cauvery and the perceived closeness of the AIADMK government to the BJP, the Congress and JD(S) were reluctant to drive through a large part of Tamil Nadu's geographical area to get into either Kerala or Puducherry.
That is when Hyderabad and Andhra were thought of as possible options. Less than 100 km from Bengaluru, you enter into Andhra – and because of Chandrababu Naidu's fallout with the BJP, the state was seen as a safe zone. Ghulam Nabi Azad also spoke to Naidu, but the lack of sufficient number of hotels in and around Vijayawada meant Andhra was off the list.
HD Kumaraswamy offered to speak to Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, who had last month flown down to Bengaluru to meet HD Deve Gowda and extend support to the JD(S) in the election. KCR's ally, Asaduddin Owaisi had also campaigned for the JD(S) in the election in Karnataka. But the Telangana Congress, at loggerheads with KCR, offered to take care of all arrangements in Hyderabad and did not encourage involving KCR. Andhra Congress chief Raghuveera Reddy was the point person to take care of the buses while they were on Andhra soil.
Kumaraswamy was very particular that all MLAs should stay together in the same hotel. Perhaps that arose from a sense of nervousness about any of the Congress MLAs playing truant. Not surprising, given that Anand Singh and Pratapgouda Patil are already rumoured to have flown the coop – though Congress leaders suggest the duo will finally vote for the alliance inside the House.
It was around 11.30 pm when contact was established with senior Congress leader T Subbirami Reddy, who owns Park Hyatt hotel in the upscale Banjara Hills area of Hyderabad. But since the hotel also plays host to the Sunrisers Hyderabad IPL team, more than 100 rooms were not available at the Hyatt. So accommodation was also arranged at Taj Krishna and Novotel.
With just a day to go for the trust vote, the ‘manager' of the group, former Karnataka Energy Minister DK Shivakumar, is not taking any chances. The mobile phones of all the legislators have been taken away and are in Shivakumar's custody. This is what Yeddyurappa also alluded to, when he said none of the Congress MLAs have their mobile phones with them. That invited sniggers, with people asking how the Chief Minister knew – and if he had been trying their numbers.
Telangana Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy is trying to arrange a special charter flight to ferry the MLAs back to Bengaluru on Friday evening. But opinion is divided among the lawmakers on when they should return to home base. RV Deshpande, the senior most legislator – the one who ‘lost out’ on the pro-tem Speaker post when the Governor Vajubhai Vala decided to go with the controversial former Speaker KG Bopaiah instead – said it would be better to fly out on Saturday morning and drive directly to the Assembly for the session. That is because if the MLAs fly out on Friday, Shivakumar will have to arrange for a resort to put them up for the night. Meanwhile, Siddaramaiah has arrived in Hyderabad by a special flight to confabulate with the lawmakers.
In Bengaluru, all eyes are on the BJP – will the party be able to cobble together the numbers? The Supreme court ruling has been a serious setback for the party that needed more time to move from 104 to 112. If Yeddyurappa loses the trust vote on Saturday evening, he will go down in history as two-day-Chief Minister – a Mudhalvan of sorts. The court has already rapped him on the knuckles, asking him not to take any policy decisions till the floor test is done with.
The resort politics of the last 48 hours has taken attention away from the nature of the verdict that while dumping the Congress, the people of Karnataka did not endorse a BJP government completely either. The mandate clearly is then for a coalition government and after the cat and mouse games the Congress-JD(S) and the BJP have played with each other, the least Karnataka expects is decent governance. From whoever wins the trust vote on Saturday.