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Room 402: Where BJP lost even the little hope it had to snatch Karnataka

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It was here that the Congress’ two ‘missing’ MLAs, Anand Singh and Pratap Gowda Patil, were reportedly holed up amid alleged attempts by the BJP to enlist their support to form the government.

Bengaluru: Room 402 of a Bengaluru four-star hotel will long be remembered as the site where a state’s political direction was sealed after one of the most bitterly contested elections of the country.

It was here that the Congress’ two ‘missing’ MLAs, Anand Singh and Pratap Gowda Patil, were reportedly holed up amid alleged attempts by the BJP to enlist their support to form the government in Karnataka.

It was a page straight out of a thriller, and included a jet, a powerful man and several phone calls to the duo to convince them to return to their original stable.

Before B.S. Yeddyurappa resigned as chief minister Saturday ahead of a floor test the BJP seemed set to lose, feverish efforts were reportedly underway in the party to cobble together a majority by wooing MLAs from the JD(S) and the Congress.

Singh and Patil were reportedly seen as pivots of the plan, amid the belief that their defection might convince other legislators to follow suit.

The plan 

Intense speculation ensued as Patil and Singh went off the radar in the days before the trust vote, with several people guessing that they had shifted to the BJP. Patil and mining baron Singh are both former BJP members.

But what nobody knew was the fact that the powerful Reddy brothers of Ballari had stepped in. Gali Somashekhara Reddy, one of this election’s victor BJP candidates and the younger brother of Gali Janardhan Reddy, had flown Patil and Singh to Delhi for a special meeting with BJP national president Amit Shah Friday. An evening of intense discussions and deliberations followed before they finally landed back in Bengaluru on the day of the trust vote, Saturday.

As soon as they landed in the Karnataka capital, Somashekhara took them to the Goldfinch Hotel, where the duo checked into Room 402 and remained for hours amid the BJP and Congress’ lobbying for their support.

Panic room

At the hotel, Somashekhara tried to convince Singh and Patil that Yeddyurappa had the numbers and their support for the BJP would not just help them politically, but also financially. For a bit, Singh was reportedly worried that he would have to side with the BJP or the illegal mining cases against him would be reopened, casting him into political exile.

Patil, on the other hand, was said to have been sure the whole time that Yeddyurappa didn’t have the numbers. By the time he landed at Goldfinch, he had reportedly made up his mind that he would go to the Vidhan Soudha and take his place on the Congress’ side.

But things were reportedly not going as easy as they thought. Somashekhara was in the room with them, and constantly in touch with Shah and BSY, who were monitoring the situation telephonically.

Inside the room, as Patil and Somashekhara monitored the rapid developments in the election saga on TV, Singh quietly slipped out of the hotel, headed for an unknown destination.

Around 1.45 pm, he was back, only to communicate to Reddy that he was not with them. He did so, but it would be another hour before Singh finally made up his mind.

By 2 pm, Congress leaders had already got a tip-off that Singh and Patil were being held by Somashekhara in the hotel. They called up senior police officers and complained that the two MLAs were being held captive by the BJP.

This caught BJP members off-guard, and in the ensuing chaos Patil tried to leave the hotel on his own. He stayed for nearly 20 minutes in the basement, even as Congress leaders D.K. Suresh, Rizwan Arshad and H.M. Revanna waited for police to bring the two out of room 402.

By this time, the audio tapes released by the Congress purportedly exposing the BJP’s bid to bribe MLAs had already embarrassed the party, and they gave up. Finally, accompanied by a police escort, Patil was taken to the Vidhan Soudha, where senior Congress MLA D.K. Shivakumar, waiting near the porch, escorted him inside.

On oath

Singh, still reportedly weighing his options, made up his mind around 3 pm, an hour before the scheduled trust vote, when he realised the BJP didn’t have a majority.

After much coaxing by Shivakumar, he soon landed at the Vidhan Soudha with his family. Shivakumar was waiting at the door for him and led him by the hand to take his oath as an MLA.

Shivakumar did not leave Singh’s side for a minute while the oath ceremony was underway.

Finally, when Yeddyurappa announced his resignation, a huge sigh of relief was heard from among the MLAs.

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