There was a time when Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy was accused of being an agent for the American Central Intelligence Agency. After Swamy was nominated back to the Rajya Sabha earlier this year, Congress members in the House chanted "CIA agent", pointing to him. Never one to be fazed, even though he has sued others for the allegation, Swamy on Thursday chose to throw the "American agent" tag at another Indian: Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan.
Continuing his tirade against the central banker, Swamy wrote a second letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday asking for Rajan to be sacked as RBI governor. His earlier letter had claimed that Rajan was "mentally not fully Indian" and insisted that the RBI governor had made a "deliberate attempt to wreck the Indian economy."
In his latest letter, Swamy takes this even further, offering six specific allegations against the central banker, which he believes are sufficient cause for his termination.
A summary of these is below:
- Swamy claims Rajan's insistence on raising interest rates led to a "recession" in domestic small and medium industries and also "massive unemployment."
- He says the RBI governor insisted on permitting Sharia-compliant organisations to be set up despite a bar by the Finance Ministry.
- Swamy reiterates his claim that Rajan continues to hold an American Green Card, suggesting he might not have a "patriotic and unconditional commitment to our nation."
- He claims that the RBI Governor sent out confidential and sensitive financial information to people around the world from an unsecured personal email address.
- Swamy insisted that Rajan had been using "pejorative sarcasm" against the Narendra Modi government
- And finally, Swamy pointed out that Rajan is a member of the US-dominated Group of 30, which he claims is a "group set up to defend US's dominant position in the global economy."
Swamy concludes the letter by once again asking for Rajan to be fired.
"In view of the above, I wish to convey with all the emphasis I can muster, that it is in India's national interest to terminate the tenure of Dr Rajan as RBI Governor. The decision is, of course, yours to make."
These are wildly diverse claims. The interest rate one, for example, is ridiculous because monetary policy is meant to influence the entire economy, not just small and medium businesses – and the government has specifically given RBI the task of controlling inflation. Rajan has also done much to shore up the economy. Questions about Islamic banking, however, might have more grounded policy concerns within them.
While asking Rajan whether he holds a Green Card might be valid, the idea that the RBI Governor is out to destroy the Indian economy to preserve America's dominant position is as batty as it sounds.
The question to ask, really, is why Swamy continues not just to attack Rajan but also do it quite so publicly. The comments have made many in government uncomfortable and have resulted in awkward headlines around the world. According to Mint's V Anantha Nageswaran, Swamy's crusade is actually doing "irreparable damage to the prime minister, to the economy, to the post of the central bank governor and to the RBI."
When asked about it in a rare interview to the Wall Street Journal, Modi on Thursday said, "I don’t think this administrative subject should be an issue of interest to the media. Besides, it will come up only in September."
Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah, meanwhile, told journalists that "the party stand is spelt out by me," and that "I will not comment on institutions and their heads in public."
Only Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has come out and publicly said he doesn't approve of the attacks on the RBI Governor.
For a party known to have a strong leadership, whether it is Shah or Modi, and a fairly strong messaging approach, the fact that Swamy feels empowered to continue throwing muck at the RBI Governor without anyone rebuking him sends a message of its own.