NEW DELHI: Forecasting Raghuram Rajan’s future as the governor of Reserve Bank of India is now a cottage industry. Now that Subramanian Swamy,who comes across either as a crusader or a clown depending on where you stand — is after Rajan. So rolling the kaleidoscope throws up some interesting puzzles.

Swamy and Rajan, though separated by a generation of economic thoughts, have many things in common. They have glorious academic record, both studied economics, went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for higher education, taught at top global universities, and returned home to give back at the time of crisis — Swamy during a political one, and Rajan when the economy was wobbly.
They are both articulate in expressing their views. Ask any Sanghi of the 70s, he will tell you how Swamy overwhelmed them with his economic vision for India. Rajan does the same, disturbing vested interests. They will also tell you how Swamy’s self-confidence, bordering on arrogance, led to three decades of political hibernation.

There is a difference too – Swamy, the brash who threw a Harvard job and returned to India only to be told in Delhi that the promised job doesn’t exist, and a man in a hurry to head the treasury. In contrast, Rajan is suave, measured and conservative who kept the safety net of the US green card.

Swamy’s latest rant on Rajan is probably more jealousy than charges based on evidence, unlike his other cases like the one on former telecom minister A Raja. The Rajya Sabha member probably believes the governor is closer to achieving the dream that eluded him for four decades.

The letter to the Prime Minister seeking Rajan’s termination accuses the governor of intentionally wrecking the economy by keeping interest rates high, ballooning of bad loans under his watch, and that he is not Indian enough to head the institution.

Swamy’s argument on why have a UPA candidate when ‘we have so many nationalist minded experts available in this country for the rbi governorship,’ is obvious lobbying for the candidates he has in mind.

In the normal political course, Swamy might have had his way. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been treading a different path that few political pundits have figured out.

What would Modi do to Rajan? Forecasting — be it politics or economics — is influenced by the events of past and it could be no different for Modi.

Turning to an event that pundits said was the one that could tear this government might help understand what is in store. Remember the Lalit Modi scandal that was supposed to end the careers of Vasundara Raje as the chief minister of Rajasthan, and Sushma Swaraj’s as the external affairs minister?

The fact that Modi ignored the media blitzkrieg on the two and went by his judgment tells you he decides based on personal enquiry rather than hype.

Many things that Swamy accuses Rajan of happened with the blessings of Modi himself — be it inflation targeting, or clean-up of banks. Also, the governor’s view prevailed even on fiscal policy.

Then comes the argument that he is UPA’s candidate. Modi is a politician who uses even the enemy’s hand to his advantage. The way he is exploiting Aadhar to drive his vision and the recruitment of Suresh Prabhu as railways minister despite Shiv Sena’s tantrums are evidence that he looks beyond politics for administration. Why should it be different with Rajan.

What about Rajan’s Indianness? It is old hat.

“I am an Indian citizen and I have always been an Indian citizen, and hold an Indian passport. I have never applied for the citizenship of another country, I have never been a citizen of another country and I have never taken the pledge of allegiance to another country. I do hold a green card and it does not require you to take a pledge of allegiance anywhere. It is simply a work permit that you need to work in another country, which is the US,” Rajan has said.

Contrast this with what Swamy reported comment in the Caravan magazine in 2012, “I’m not pro-American — I am American.”
Facts stack up for Modi to give Rajan a second term, if only Rajan wants it. Politics may tempt one to look at his Green Card and conclude that would head to the comfort of a university campus. But make no mistake: Rajan is no faint-hearted.Read his recent message to students: “India is changing, in many ways for the better. You will be able to help shape our country, the world, and your place in it. By all means set yourself ambitious goals. But remember that, as both ancient Indian philosophers and modern day behavioural psychologists say, the achievement of narrow personal goals greater wealth, rapid promotion, or increasing renown rarely brings you anything other than brief pleasure.”
Probably, he is more patriotic and philosophical than we know.

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