05 January 1998 National 1997: Villain Of The Year

Villain No. 7: Romesh Bhandari

A servile, self-seeking, extravagant, unscrupulous, egotistical, thick-skinned, wining, dining, golfing, social climbing, headline-hunting good-time Charlie.
Villain No. 7: Romesh Bhandari
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
Uttar Pradesh survived Romesh Bhandari. So did democracy—just about—as the governor partied the year through, sublimely indifferent to press portrayals of a servile, self-seeking, extravagant, unscrupulous, egotistical, thick-skinned, wining, dining, golfing, social climbing, headline-hunting good-time Charlie.

Bhandari started the year by shrugging away the Allahabad High Court’s trenchant observations on his conduct as governor. He’d virtually hijacked governance after the October 1996 (hung) assembly polls by recommending President’s rule. In characteristic "What, me worry?" fashion Bhandari made hay while the matter went to the Supreme Court, effecting over 200 transfers of IAS/IPS officers at the behest of Mulayam Singh Yadav for whom he’s ditched his Congress friends. He took off from instituting "Mulayam Raj" only to embellish his Raj Bhawan.

Perhaps the closest Bhandari came to losing his job was when he locked horns with Union home minister Indrajit Gupta. Bhandari took the latter’s remark that "the largest state in the country is heading towards anarchy" personally and complained to Gowda. Bhandari’s votaries in the UF closed ranks behind him. The BJP took the opportunity to demand his recall from UP.

A mega-sized row would have developed but for a dinner party meeting between BJP and BSP supremos L.K. Advani and Kanshi Ram. The two buried the hatchet and formed a unique "rotational" government. Bhandari reluctantly and fumblingly swore in a triumphant Mayawati. Never had his abysmal lack of Hindi-speaking skills been more apparent. On the plus side, the BJP lost interest in pressing its motion demanding Bhandari’s recall.

The governor maintained a low profile while the Mayawati juggernaut dismantled Mulayam Raj in UP. He was back in business briefly when Mayawati’s six-month tenure gave way to Kalyan Singh’s chief minister-ship. Predictably, the BSP withdrew support and it was incumbent on the BJP to prove its majority in the assembly. Why did Bhandari allow Kalyan Singh that crucial 48 hours to successfully establish his majority, when his good friend Mulayam wanted dissolution of the assembly? Mulayam’s intimates absolved Bhandari of double-dealing. After all, nobody seriously believed Kalyan could cobble a majority so quickly.

Bhandari made one last inglorious effort to stymie the BJP by claiming its majority was dubious as law and order had broken down in the UP assembly. The cabinet obligingly recommended the dismissal of Kalyan Singh but President K.R. Narayanan shot it down. Kalyan continued in office. So does Bhandari.

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