Dubious history

Karnataka governor H R Bhardwaj has created history of sorts by according sanction for the prosecution of chief minister B S Yeddyurappa for “various grave allegations of corruption and criminal misconduct” in an appropriate court of law. The governor, who was publicly spitting fire at Yeddyurappa over the last few days, has acted on a petition by two Bangalore advocates seeking his sanction for prosecuting the chief minister under Section 19(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Though there have been instances of governors granting such permission in other states, notably in Tamil Nadu against the then chief minister J Jayalalitha, and in Bihar against Lalu Prasad Yadav in corruption cases, it is the first time a governor has acted against a chief minister in Karnataka.

Ever since he took up the gubernatorial job in Karnataka on June 29, 2009, Bhardwaj has been at loggerheads with the BJP government on one issue or the other. As a constitutional authority, he has every right to guide the administration, offer counsel and even pull up the government where it goes wrong. Yes, the Yeddyurappa government has committed many wrongs in the 32 months that it has been in power, and as the constitutional head of the state, the governor was duty bound to ask questions and seek remedial actions. There are clearly defined constitutional boundaries and well-established conventions for the governor’s conduct. But Bhardwaj has adopted a crudely confrontationist approach, which was totally unwarranted. Where he was expected to exercise caution and discretion in his actions, he used his loud mouth to get himself into a tangle. If chief minister Yeddyurappa and some of his colleagues have openly accused the governor of acting in a ‘partisan manner’ or like ‘an agent of the Congress party,’ Bhardwaj has nobody to blame but himself.

No doubt there are allegations of some of Yeddyurappa’s family members and ministerial colleagues indulging in illegalities and their actions are under various stages of investigations by the courts, the CBI and the Lokayukta. Ultimately, it is for the courts to decide whether they are guilty or not and pronounce judgments accordingly. But the remarks of Bhardwaj, prejudging the issues and alluding to the chief minister as a ‘thief’, were in extreme bad taste and have lowered the dignity of his office. Yeddyurappa will face the legal procedures as mandated, but in the interest of fair play and creating a congenial atmosphere, the Centre should recall the governor who has exceeded all limits of decency and decorum.

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