After letter war, Bhardwaj, Yeddyurappa gear for longer battle

By V.S. Karnic, IANS
Saturday, January 22, 2011

BANGALORE - Months of verbal duel and exchange of letters, and now street battles ahead of a long legal tussle. That in a nutshell is Karnataka these days as Governor H.R. Bhardwaj and Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa dig in their heels to prove the other wrong over the latter’s alleged corruption and nepotism.

Both Yeddyurappa and Bhardwaj are veterans in their parties, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress respectively, and are battle scarred, surviving controversies.

Bhardwaj came to Karnataka Raj Bhavan (governor’s residence) after enjoying power at New Delhi while Yeddyurappa was savouring his real first stint as chief minister of Karnataka after being in the opposition for decades. He was chief minister for a week in 2007 after being deputy chief minister for 20 months.

It was bonhomie between the two in the first few months after Bhardwaj took over as the 16th governor of Karnataka in June 2009.

Later, as Yeddyurappa started facing rebellion from his own ministers and legislators, Bhardwaj publicly exhibited his sympathy for the chief minister. Bhardwaj would make comments to the effect, “He is a good man surrounded by bad people.”

Yeddyurappa too would reciprocate, praising Bhardwaj as an “experienced leader” from whom he would take ‘advise’ on how to run the government.

Bhardwaj was cut up with opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular leaders frequently calling on him to complain against the Yeddyurappa government. He once told reporters that these leaders were wasting time instead of fighting their battle politically!

The relations between Bhardwaj and Yeddyurappa remained cordial even after the governor started publicly attacking the BJP government, particularly over the illegal iron ore mining issue that became a raging controversy in June last year.

Mining barons and ministers in the Yeddyurappa cabinet, the Reddy brothers, are charged with large-scale illegal mining. The brothers, Tourism Minister G. Janardhana and Revenue Minister G. Karunakara, had also rebelled against Yeddyurappa and almost brought his government down.

From then on, Bhardwaj’s barbs against the BJP government became strident. So did the BJP state leaders’ attack on him.

Even as Bhardwaj and BJP leaders squabbled in public, Yeddyurappa maintained a discreet distance, repeatedly telling the media that he had high regard for the governor.

But to Yeddyurappa’s misfortune, allegations of his nepotism in land allotment hit him hard in October-November last year. And there was little scope for maintaining ‘cordial ties’ with Bhardwaj whom BJP colleagues pilloried as a ‘Congress agent’.

Bhardwaj repeatedly demanded Yeddyurappa give a “true picture” and also sought action against the Reddy brothers.

With the Congress and the JD-S launching a strident campaign against the BJP government and seeking Yeddyurappa’s resignation, it was only a matter of time before the governor and the chief minister would be set on a course of confrontation.

Two Bangalore advocates gave the ideal platform for Bhardwaj with their appeal on Dec 28 to grant sanction to file criminal cases against Yeddyurappa.

The land scam issue that had dragged on for over two months came to head in 48 hours.

As speculation started that Bhardwaj was considering the advocates’ plea, Yeddyurappa and his cabinet sought to pre-empt the governor from giving sanction.

On Jan 19, Yeddyurappa shot off a letter to Bhardwaj and the cabinet followed it up with a resolution the same day urging the governor to desist from acting on the advocates’ plea.

An angry Bhardwaj hit back at Yeddyurappa and his cabinet the next day, banking on a popular Hindi saying ‘ulta chor kotwal ko daante’ (it is like a thief reprimanding the police).

Yeddyurappa and state BJP leaders took umbrage at Bhardwaj likening the cabinet to a thief and announced plans to oust Bhardwaj from Raj Bhavan.

Around 7.45 p.m. Friday came the innocuous media release from Raj Bhavan, saying: “His Excellency …..has granted permission …..”.

The letter war did not end with this, though.

Late Friday, Yeddyurappa sprang a surprise, stating Bhardwaj had refused to hand over a copy of his order to a senior officer deputed by the chief minister!

Saturday morning, as the state was hit by sporadic violence during the shutdown called by the ruling BJP to protest Bhardwaj’s decision, a group of ministers marched to Raj Bhavan - to get a copy of the sanction order.

Now it is over to legal brains to defend or tear apart Bhardwaj’s decision in the courts.

The long legal tussle is likely to begin Monday when the chief minister is expected to move the high court against Bhardwaj’s decision.

The same day the two Bangalore advocates, now armed with sanction, also plan to file a criminal case against Yeddyurappa in a Bangalore court.

Filed under: Politics

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