Governor H R Bhardwaj’s five-year stint in Karnataka will go down in the history perhaps as the most controversial the State has ever witnessed.
The outspoken Bhardwaj recommended imposition of president’s rule in the State twice, gave his sanction for prosecution of a chief minister, took on the powerful Bellary brothers on the mining issue, had tiffs with vice-chancellors and eminent personalities while discharging his responsibilities at the gubernatorial post.
Soon after occupying the seat at Raj Bhavan in 2009, Bhardwaj started regular outbursts against the ruling BJP criticising the government for rampant corruption that it was not able to curb illegal mining.
He criticised the government for not maintaining law and order in the State and for not protecting the interests of minorities. In October 2010, Bhardwaj recommended imposition of president’s rule in the State after 16 MLAs - eleven from BJP and five independents - submitted a letter to him withdrawing support to the government led by the then chief minister B S Yeddyurappa. However, the Centre rejected his recommendation.
Six months later, Bhardwaj once again recommended imposition of President’s rule after the Supreme Court set aside disqualification of the 16 MLAs. He repeatedly sought the sacking of the Bellary brothers for their alleged involvement in illegal mining. The same year, Bhardwaj sanctioned the prosecution of Yeddyurappa under Prevention of Corruption Act following several allegations of his involvement in land scams. Unprecedented scenes followed with the BJP hitting the street seeking the removal of Bhardwaj.
Controversy also followed Bhardwaj in his role as chancellor of all universities in the State. He withheld award of honorary doctorate by the Bangalore University to noted historian and Kannada writer M Chidananda Murthy and made scathing personal attack on Mysore university vice-chancellor V G Talawar. Bhardwaj insisted that it should be the governor’s prerogative to appoint vice-chancellors.
Bhardwaj sent back a proposal of the BJP government to convert Mysore and Karnataka universities into “innovative varsities” but approved the setting up of several private universities in the State.