HR Bhardwaj, whose term as Karnataka's 16th governor ended on Saturday, leaves behind a legacy that is bitterly contested.
Controversy followed him till the very end. On Friday, BJP MLC G Madhusudan accused Bhardwaj of corruption on the floor of the house. He alleged that the governor had appointed tainted people as vice chancellors of universities and approved the Congress' MLC nominees for "extraneous considerations".
His biggest endorsement in this period came from former Lokayukta N Santosh Hegde, who told HT, "As far as his fight against illegal mining and land grab is concerned, his role has been exemplary and substantial. I don't want to comment on the other (more controversial) aspects."
Expectedly, the most scathing criticism of his term has come from the BJP whose government he tried to dismiss twice when BS Yeddyurappa was the chief minister. When he made the second recommendation for imposition of President's rule in May 2011, the BJP launched statewide protests demanding his sacking. He also gave the Lokayukta sanctions to prosecute a series of BJP MLAs and ministers who had been accused of corruption.
Speaking to HT, senior BJP leader S Suresh Kumar said, "He was openly partisan and turned the Raj Bhavan into a Rajakiya (political) Bhavan."
The JD(S), which has done business with both the Congress and the BJP since 2004, has been more ambivalent. Former chief minister and JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy said, "There were positives and negatives. He played a big role in fighting corruption but he was, no doubt, anti-BJP. Importantly, he showed that a Governor is not just a rubber stamp." His party colleague M C Nanaiah went as far as to describe Bhardwaj as a "Constitutional expert and legal luminary" even as he said, "But I feel he should have been more circumspect about airing his views in public."
Perhaps, the 77-year-old leader's biggest undoing was his penchant to air his views through the media. His quote-a-day approach made him a darling of the 'breaking news' brigade but earned him enemies for life in Karnataka.