Subramanian Swamy targeted Raghuram Rajan, in the way that he does it, aiming a series of low blows. Typically, there was a fig leaf of a cause, or in this case, a policy disagreement — that the resistance to lowering interest rates during Rajan’s tenure as RBI governor contributed to subduing growth. But the substance of the attack was unabashedly conspiratorial: In a letter to the prime minister last month, Swamy urged him to “terminate” Rajan’s services “effective immediately” or when his term ends in September because he was “mentally not fully Indian”, and because of a “wilful and apparently deliberate attempt” to “wreck the Indian economy”. Last weekend, when Rajan made public his intention not to seek a second term, and also hinted that his leaving was not entirely his own decision, Swamy jumped in to claim success. This week, he announced his next target: The man who replaced Rajan as chief economic adviser, and who worked with him at the IMF, and therefore, in Swamy’s book, whose nationalism is also suspect, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian. On Wednesday, the government distanced itself from Swamy’s latest tirade, which also brings in positions taken by Subramanian on intellectual property rights and GST.
It may be that Rajan’s exit in September has nothing to do with the vitriol poured on him by Swamy, and that Swamy sensed Rajan’s imminent departure and smartly moved in to take credit. It could be that Swamy serves the BJP’s purpose of keeping the RSS happy and the opposition, particularly the Congress and specifically the Gandhi family, under relentless sniper fire, and in return allows him his lip-smacking moments. You might even point out that the Modi government cannot be expected to take responsibility for all of the MP’s positions and peeves — in the past, letters written by Swamy to the PM have reportedly bristled with spectres as varied as the 2G scam (the one notable case where his dart hit bullseye), dam projects on the Ganga, electronic voting machines, alleged corruption in foreign bank accounts and defence deals, terrorism, religious conversion and demographic infiltration. He has also advocated disenfranchisement as a punishment for Muslims refusing to acknowledge their Hindu ancestry.
And yet, the Modi government cannot shrug off all responsibility for Swami’s unsubstantiated tirades, call them his “personal views”. Having chosen to bring Swamy into the Rajya Sabha as a nominated MP, and after providing a prestigious institutional platform to the maverick politician, it cannot turn away when he uses it to launch a political hit job, nor believably feign innocence. The Modi government must be prepared: It has brought Swamy inside the tent and so it will also be on the mat every time he takes a shot in the dark — at those in the opposition and also when he turns his gun in the direction of the government itself.