All eyes on Raj Bhavan as Karnataka awaits storm (Letter from Bangalore)

By V.S. Karnic, IANS
Friday, January 21, 2011

BANGALORE - Karnataka stares at a political storm in the coming days as Governor H.R. Bhardwaj sits in his sprawling 170-year-old bungalow mulling prosecution of Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa over allegations of nepotism in land allotment.

Bhardwaj, who will turn 74 in May, has been poring over a 1,700-page document containing alleged irregularities in land allotment by the Bharatiya Janata Partys first chief minister in south India.

He has sought 93 files from the state government to help decide whether to sanction Yeddyurappas prosecution as sought by two Bangalore lawyers or send to the beleaguered chief minister the all is well message.

Yeddyurappa and his cabinet have claimed that Bhardwaj had made up his mind as far back as Dec 31 to sanction prosecution. They even gave the time-frame of when to expect the governors decision - any day after Jan 26.

Bhardwaj has vehemently disagreed.

He insisted Thursday he was yet to make up his mind and has not given any inclination to anybody of his thinking. Bhardwaj has sought to beat the deadline the ruling BJP thought he had fixed.

I will let you know the decision in two days, he said Wednesday. That would be a full five days ahead of the after Jan 26 deadline given by BJP.

Yeddyurappa and his party do not seem to have any hope of the business as usual signal from the Raj Bhavan, situated on an area called High Grounds and built between 1840-42 by Sir Mark Cubbon, who was the Commissioner of Mysore territories of the British from 1834 to 1861.

Till independence, the bungalow was variously called Commissioners Bungalow or Residency. Raj Bhavan is surrounded by around 15 acres of gardens and greenery.

The complex is not open to the public and most of its occupants have also not dominated the public domain in terms of news and views as Bhardwaj has done since he became its 15th resident in June 2009.

Though Bhardwaj is the 16th governor, the first governor Jayachamarjendra Wodeyar did not stay in the bungalow. Wodeyar, a former maharaja of Mysore, preferred to stay in his palace in Bangalore.

The only other governor who had hit headlines for a few days was Dharam Vira, who held the post from 1969-72, over some differences with the central government.

Bhardwaj, a Congress veteran and central law minister in the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, seems to relish his frequent spats with BJP ministers and party leaders in the state.

He gives as good as he gets from the BJP leaders, particularly from the partys state president K.S. Eshwarappa.

Bhardwaj is variously called a “Congress agent”, “real opposition leader” in Karnataka, “the man who has turned Raj Bhavan into an extension of 10, Janpath (a reference to Congress president Sonia Gandhis residence in New Delhi)” and “the man in a hurry to get back to central ministry”.

Unfazed, Bhardwaj hits back with I am proud of being a Congress man”, “I have been in politics longer than these leaders and need not learn anything from them”, “I am here to see the government is run according to the constitution”, “I am not scared of threats by these leaders”.

Unlike most governors public functions, which are generally ignored by the media, Bhardwaj, by not holding back his punches, has ensured that not just one or two but a host of reporters attend at all his public functions.

His announcement of a decision on Yeddyurappas fate has signalled a tense 48-hour countdown for Karnataka on possible turbulent days ahead for the state which has had no stable governance since 2004.

Filed under: Politics

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