Unabashedly partisan in his motives and actions, Karnataka Governor H.R. Bhardwaj has been, for a long time now, a disgrace to the constitutional office he holds. At every available opportunity, he has been abusing the authority of his office to unseat the Bharatiya Janata Party government of B.S. Yeddyurappa. However, by recommending the imposition of President's Rule in Karnataka, using as a pretext the order of the Supreme Court setting aside the disqualification of 11 BJP rebel Members of the Legislative Assembly, he has taken the office of Governor to a new low. When Chief Minister Yeddyurappa was ready for another confidence vote, and the rebel MLAs had already taken back their letter withdrawing support to the government, the situation certainly did not warrant Mr. Bhardwaj sending a report to the Centre recommending President's Rule. That Mr. Bhardwaj did so after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other leaders in New Delhi raises the question whether he was acting at the behest of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre. TheS.R. Bommai vs Union of Indiajudgment delivered by the Supreme Court in March 1994 clearly states that “in all cases where the support of the Ministry is claimed to have been withdrawn by some legislators, the proper course for testing the strength of the Ministry is holding the test on the floor of the House.” The assessment of the strength of the Ministry, the judgment made it clear, was “not a matter of private opinion of any individual, be he the Governor or the President.” In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling against the disqualification of the BJP MLAs, the Governor had no proper constitutional role to play other than acting in conformity with theBommaijudgment and leaving the matter to be settled in the Assembly.
Mr. Bhardwaj, through his actions, has again brought to the fore the issue of Governors acting as political agents of the Centre in States ruled by opposition parties. Although theBommai judgment has limited the partisan use of Article 356 of the Constitution impossible, the case of Mr. Bhardwaj highlights the dangers of possible misuse of the powers vested in the office of Governor. Despite their clearly defined constitutional role, Governors, with the backing of the Centre, have from time to time played the super-Chief Minister, threatening the very federal structure of the polity. If this situation is not to continue indefinitely, Mr. Bhardwaj must be made an example of. His continuance in the Raj Bhavan in Bangalore is no longer tenable. Gubernatorial posts are not for trigger-happy political adventurers.