Bharadwaj a ‘classical secularist’ and free-minded Congress leader

New Delhi, March 8: Former Law Minister and Congress veteran Hans Raj Bharadwaj, who passed away here on Sunday evening, was considered an “old classical secularist” of the party but was also forthright in questioning its leaders and its stand on various issues.

Bharadwaj, 82, died of a cardiac arrest at Max Hospital where he was admitted last week.

Serving as Minister in the governments of Rajiv Gandhi, P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh, he was Governor of Karnataka from 2009 to 2014, during which he was involved in various controversies.

Former Union Minister Salman Khurshid told IANS: “He was a very independent minded person and I have a deep affection for him because he gave me a lot of knowledge.”

He said that Bharadwaj was a person of very strong opinion. “He was an old classical secularist of Congress party and was also bit impatient with modern times,” he said.

Bharadwaj was very “set” in his ways and did not get along with people flexible with their ideologies, he added.

“He was very impatient with them… He was a very fine person. He had an uncanny ability to manage the legal system and reach out to enormous number of lawyers. He will be missed dearly,” the Congress leader said.

Bharadwaj had questioned the leadership ability of Rahul Gandhi in 2018, saying: “I don’t consider Rahul Gandhi a leader yet. He’ll understand when he gets a post.”

He also said that Gandhi was learning and he will become a leader when public accepts him. He had also targeted the party for indulging in politics of religion as the reason of its failures.

Bharadwaj had his share of controversies during his tenure as Law Minister in the UPA government.

In the 2G scam, a special court dealing with the case remarked that Bhardwaj’s conduct while dealing with the issue relating to granting of new 2G licences was against all established canons, discipline and protocol of government working.

In 2017, special judge O.P. Saini, while ordering acquittal of former Communications Minister A. Raja and others in the spectrum allocation scam, had expressed discontent on the conduct of the former Law Minister and termed the Law Ministry’s opinion on the issue as completely outlandish.

The court had said the Ministry’s opinion to refer to an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) the matter connected with the issue of new licences and allocation of spectrum to dual technology applicants, led to unnecessary controversy.

Bhardwaj had also got into the controversy after he lashed out against the Congress on a comment made by Union Minister P. Chidambaram about “poor drafting” of the now-scrapped Section 66A of IT Act, alleging Chidambaram was trying to target him.

Bhardwaj’s stint as the Governor of Karnataka was also marked by controversies as he twice tried to dismiss the government when B.S. Yeddiyurappa was Chief Minister and even sanctioned his prosecution on corruption charges – a process later struck down by the state high court. The BJP accused him of corruption and for allegedly appointing tainted people as Vice Chancellors of universities.

During his gubernatorial stint, he had also held additional charge of Kerala for a short time.

(Anand Singh can be contacted at [email protected])

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