Politics is a strange creature. Twenty years ago, DK Shivakumar defeated HD Kumaraswamy in the election to the Sathanur assembly constituency in Karnataka. Today, he stands under the umbrella outside Renaissance hotel in Powai in Mumbai, trying to protect the same Kumaraswamy from being unseated.
Over the years, Shivakumar has come to acquire a larger-than-life image. Which is why the rebel MLAs staying at the Mumbai hotel wrote to the Mumbai police commissioner, no less, that Shivakumar should not be allowed entry. Their letter to the commissioner fears Shivakumar and others “are going to storm” into the hotel premises, making him seem like Superman. One of the MLAs said on TV that “Shivakumar can do anything”, giving the Karnataka Water Resources minister the stature of the last man standing between the BJP and Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru.
The scene outside the hotel makes it seem a Kannada potboiler is streaming live.
“I am a small man, I have a room booked in the hotel. Here is my booking confirmation,” says Shivakumar showing his phone to the Mumbai DCP.
“But Sir, they are frightened of you, we cannot let you enter,” is the cop’s reply.
“I just want to drink coffee with them,” retorts Shivakumar.
“I would arrange coffee for you at a guest house, Sir.” The Mumbai police remains firm it will not allow an episode of Coffee with DK.
Shivakumar is not new to resort politics. He was instrumental in shepherding the Congress MLAs from Gujarat in 2017 to ensure Ahmed Patel got elected as Rajya Sabha MP. Last May, he drove the Karnataka Congress legislators to Hyderabad to guard the flock against poaching attempts by the BJP.
But this time, the shoe is on the other foot. The rebel MLAs had orchestrated their exit well, flying out of Bengaluru by a special private aircraft. In fact, Shivakumar missed his protege, H Nagesh, an independent MLA who exited Bengaluru airport five minutes before the Congress strongman could reach. Standing outside the Mumbai hotel, the Congress party’s principal troubleshooter is now facing slogans of `Shivakumar, go back’.
Alleging a BJP hand in the revolt, Shivakumar has raised questions about the BJP leaders enjoying free access to the hotel and the Congress MLAs. The Congress has slammed Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis for deploying a huge force to prevent a minister from a neighbouring state (who has resigned along with other ministers but the resignations are yet to be accepted by Raj Bhavan) from entering a private hotel despite booking a room there. The party has accused the BJP of kidnapping and buying of MLAs.
With Shivakumar’s presence outside Renaissance hotel, the MLAs are likely to be moved to another undisclosed location. That’s something even other Congress leaders will want. Because the longer he stays outside the hotel, in the age of live television, Shivakumar emerges as the face of the Karnataka Congress. His brother DK Suresh was the lone Congress MP who got elected from Karnataka this time. Given Shivakumar’s ability to position himself well and his political ambitions, the animosity by other senior leaders towards this Vokkaliga strongman is a sub-plot by itself.