Ever since the irrepressible Subramanian Swamy described the soon-to-be ex-RBI governor as being "not mentally fully Indian", I have asked myself how "mentally, fully Indian" I am. And I am delighted to announce this is indeed my condition as well. I am definitely "not fully, mentally Indian". Thank God! Not just that, I have been patting myself on the back, puffing out my chest, and boasting to friends that at least in this one regard, I can club myself with the brilliant Raghuram Rajan. What exactly did Mr Swamy mean by that remark? And who are the people, according to him who qualify as "mentally, fully Indian", apart from himself, the Prime Minister and Baba Ramdev? What is the criterion for making the all-important cut? I have folded my yoga mat for now and decided my favourite asana is Shaivasan.
Does that win me a few points? It would really help if Mr Swamy provided a comprehensive list of the qualifications required to get that seal of approval. I can see several self-declared, official chamchas (starting with Pahlaj Nihalani) walking around with badges or sashes that say "Mentally Fully Indian". Perhaps an appropriate IQ test can be devised by Smriti Irani to test and certify such Indians. Tutorials and coaching classes would assist those found lagging, and we could think of introducing fresh courses in the university curriculum, offering degrees in the subject. Mr Swamy has opened up a fantastic field through that remark. It would be a shame to let it go without leveraging the idea to its full potential.
In what way was RR not "mentally fully Indian"? Did Mr Swamy crawl inside the man’s head and discover something was off? Was RR’s brain American? What does an American brain look like? Was Mr Swamy suggesting RR’s thinking was not in India’s interests? Suddenly there is talk of RR having stepped out of line by expressing opinions that had nothing to do with his brief as Guv of the RBI. What does that even mean? Perhaps his predecessors preferred to lie low and focused exclusively on fiscal policies, without participating in national issues. That was their call. RR is different. He was hired to perform a tough job. His admirers insist he did it well. And would have continued to steer India in the right direction, had he got the extension. Critics feel he got so carried away with the "people’s hero" image, he started to publicly challenge the government, and that was not his brief in the first place.
My question is: what if he did go beyond his mandate? What if he did raise uncomfortable issues? Was that a crime? Should he be punished for opening his mouth? More importantly, should India be punished? Come September, and Dr Rajan will be jetting out. That’s that. Will his exit solve our problems? Whether Arvind Subramanian, the Modi government’s chief economic adviser, takes over from him, or someone else, by now the message has been delivered loudly and clearly — the new Guv will have to zip up and play the game as per the Prime Minister’s rules. The ruling party’s agenda will have to be adhered to, and the new appointee will necessarily have to be a more pliant and accommodating individual. Let’s hope the next RBI governor is more than just a rubber stamp.
Mr Swamy has done India a favour without realising it. He has raised a vital debate about what it means to be "mentally, fully Indian". Dr Rajan failed the test. Most independent thinkers would fail it, too. Had RR been less vocal and more discreet, chances are he’d still be around, to implement the many policies he believed would enhance the country’s financials and lead to real growth. His pro-poor stance went against him! What an irony, that a person who was working hard to narrow the overwhelming gap between the haves and have nots, was axed for daring to go into that space!
Well, it’s not all that tough to figure out. His approach would have hurt too many "big people". The same people who are close to the present administration and play footsie with the top players in government. With RR tightening the screws, there was far too much at stake. And the can of worms had to remain firmly sealed. RR’s exit is going to benefit a lot of ambitious corporate folks, who were feeling claustrophobic with this guy getting closer and closer to exposing all their past arrangements. Watch how many of these same business people will resurface once RR leaves. There is a killing to be made. Defence deals and aviation contracts are a good place to start minting mega bucks. It’s going to be back to business as usual, with a few new players in the game.
I guess this is what Mr Swamy was referring to. RR was just not used to the Indian way of conducting business. RR mistakenly assumed he’d been hired to clean up a hopelessly corrupt and corroded system. How wrong he was! A "mentally fully Indian" person would have played ball and understood the real deal far better — this sensitive job requires the person to play ostrich. Looking back he will realise the day he stuck his neck out of the sand and said it like it is, his days in India were numbered. In Dr Rajan’s "realm of ideas" there was just no place for the dodgy business practices we are notorious for across the world. Just as well, RR was declared "not mentally, fully Indian".
He should take that as a supreme compliment and say "thank you" to Mr Swamy. And if Mr Subramanian has any sense, he should say "No, thank you..." if the post is offered to him. Mr Swamy’s war against Arun Jaitley’s favourite for the job has begun. A proxy war that will have disastrous consequences for the BJP and India’s economy. Prime Ministerji, kuch na kaho. kuch bhi na kaho...