The move, executed with amazing brazenness while the BJP had its guard down, saw a fleet of heavily tinted cars with Karnataka registration drive into the Taj Exotica, Benaulim soon after 2.30 pm.
“Before we knew what had happened, 12 MLAs were pushed into the cars by JD(S) MLA Zamir Ahmad Khan and driven away,” BJP MP Sripad Naik told Deccan Herald. He said the JD(S) “goons” had “kidnapped” the MLAs in connivance with the Congress which provided them police protection.
More bizarre, the JD(S) managers realised that they had “left behind” the 13th MLA with Renukacharya, and returned to the hotel two hours later, picked him up and drove straight to Dabolim airport where the rebel group was camped out waiting for a charter flight to take them to Kolkata.
With the Karnataka crisis now at a critical impasse, the rebels had discarded Renukacharya as leader, shifting their loyalty to Anand Asnotikar, BJP sources indicated.
The audacious move by the JD(S) took the BJP negotiators completely by surprise. After two days of bartering, and Renukacharya’s climbdown, the BJP believed it was close to clinching a deal with the rebels.
“We were to have a final meeting to finish the negotiations when they suddenly came and grabbed the MLAs,” Naik said.
The JD(S) appears to have planned its counter-offensive well. Its move came soon after Janardhana Reddy left for Bangalore and the BJP camp was taking a lunch break.
Hoping to salvage the situation to some extent, Parrikar rushed to airport, but to no avail. A senior police official saw him go into the VIP lounge alone to meet the dissidents who stayed put.
Naik said negotiations had reached the final stage with the party’s high command and Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa agreeing to reinstate all rebel ministers and giving some Cabinet status, besides accommodating another independent in the ministry.
BJP sources said talks had faltered over the quantum of money being demanded by some rebels to return to the government. According to the political grapevine the going rate for each MLA had touched Rs 25 crore.
They asked for police protection, says Goa Home Minister Ravi Naik
Countering the BJP’s accusation that the Goa police had helped the JD(S) to “kidnap” its MLAs, Goa Home Minister Ravi Naik said the police was only doing its duty.
The dissident BJP MLAs had sent a letter to Superintendent of Police Alan D’Sa asking for police protection, Naik told Deccan Herald. “Their letter to the SP said clearly that they apprehended a threat to their safety and security. The letter also said the police was not to allow anyone to meet them unless they okayed it.”
When the BJP MLAs arrived in Goa on Thursday, Ravi Naik and two other Congress ministers escorted them from the airport and stayed put at the hotel till Kumaraswamy arrived there. No Congress minister was seen at the Taj on Friday. The move appears to have been cleverly planned to fool the BJP into thinking they had achieved a breakthrough with the dissidents.