Former diplomat Romesh Bhandari, who presided over a tumultuous political period in Uttar Pradesh as Governor, died on Saturday night after a prolonged illness.
The 85-year-old Bhandari was reportedly suffering from pancreatic cancer and was under treatment at a Gurgaon hospital. A former foreign secretary, he served as Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and as Governor of Tripura, Goa and Uttar Pradesh.
It was his stint as UP Governor that generated a controversy, when the Kalyan Singh government was dismissed and Jagdambika Pal, then in the Loktantrik Congress and the state transport minister, was invited to form government.
Kalyan Singh was, however, able to prove his majority soon. All this led to widespread criticism of Bhandari.
Bhandari eventually penned a book, As I saw it, trying to give an account of the dramatic period when the BJP-BSP coalition broke apart reportedly on the basis of his actions as Governor.
Known for his proximity to the Nehru-Gandhi family, Bhandari was appointed chairman of the Congress party foreign cell in AICC soon after retirement from foreign service in 1986. He had contested from South Delhi Lok Sabha seat on a Congress ticket but lost. Many accused him of being a climber, shifting loyalties to the Samajwadi Party (then through Amar Singh) and also former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda.
He was a charming host known for his lavish parties. Bhandari often courted controversy for the wide circle of friends and acquaintances he had. He was reportedly known to controversial names like Adnan Khashoggi and Chandraswami.
Born on March 29, 1928 in Lahore, Bhandari joined Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in 1950 and became Vice-Consul at the consulate in New York. His father was chief justice of the Punjab High Court. He served as private secretary to the late V K Krishna Menon, when he was defence minister in Nehruís cabinet. He successfully negotiated with pro-Khalistani ultras who hijacked an Indian Airlines aircraft in 1984.