Nehru’s Legacy

Governor of Karnataka HR Bharadwaj resurrects Nehru’s struggle against communalism

Hardnews Bureau Bengaluru 

India’s former law minister and now Governor of Karnataka, HR Bharadwaj, does not really give an impression of missing out on all the action that takes place when the government in Delhi routinely interfaces with the judiciary. For long years, Bharadwaj battled hard to put across the government’s point of view effectively to the higher judiciary. So successful was he as the Union law minister that many began to attribute mythical powers on him in the time of crisis.

After he was dropped from the Union cabinet in 2009 and dispatched as the Governor of Karnataka when BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa was the chief minister, many in the Congress party and in the opposition had wondered over the rationality of such a move. In the last four years he has been in Bengaluru, whenever the central government has been in a crisis -- and there have been many occasions -- it was common to hear in political circles that this would not have happened if “Mr Bharadwaj was around”. It was easy for them to point out that the Congress with fewer MPs in UPA I faced much lesser problems than in UPA II. The difference, his believers helpfully point out, is that in this case HR Bharadwaj has been missing.

A Congress loyalist who earned his spurs defending the late Sanjay Gandhi during the Janata Party rule, Bharadwaj did not demur even when he had a few more years to go as a member of the Rajya Sabha when he was sent to Bengaluru. Instead, he took up the job of governor as a challenge. He immersed himself in ensuring that the Constitution was respected in a state ravaged by corruption of the powerful mining mafia with BJP links; the state had also seen uncharacteristic communal tension between Hindutva forces and Christians.

Coastal areas of the state were particularly impacted by majoritarian communalism. There is plenty of documentation to suggest that he worked closely with the BJP government to ensure that the minorities felt safe in a state that has had an illustrious past in terms of
secular harmony.

He was also seen as a governor who proved quite tough on issues of corruption in high places. Being a legal luminary, he was conscious of the fact that his objections to corruption in the government should not be misconstrued as an attempt to encroach into the turf of the elected dispensation. However, he acted within his powers to ask questions and subsequently give permission for prosecution against Yeddyurappa when the evidence became quite compelling.

He also raised serious objections to the manner in which the then Speaker had suborned the working of the assembly to help the ruling party prove its majority. He recommended the dismissal of the government under Article 356, but the central government chose not to respond. Later, the BJP leadership stepped in and secured Yeddyurappa’s resignation when his continuance became legally untenable.

Governor Bharadwaj played a big role in ensuring that the manner in which the state’s mineral reserves were pillaged was stopped. The Supreme Court, too, had stepped in to monitor mining related issues.

Bharadwaj is a great admirer of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. He is putting together a book on him. He believes that Nehru is the architect of Indian secularism and that he built India brick-by- brick, especially the public sector.

Nehru restored the primacy of Parliament by fiercely debating every issue and participating in Parliament -- even after others had gone. Nehru was also conscious of the threat communalism constituted to the unity and diversity of the country; he went from street to street, and connected with the people, to reassert secular pluralism and democracy. He built the support of the masses to ensure that communal forces do not earn popular legitimacy. It is this secular Nehru that Bharadwaj wants to capture in his book.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: AUGUST 2013