Time Magazine termed him as ‘India’s prescient banker’ when featuring him in the ‘100 Most Influential People in the World, but on a lighter note, he is often called the ‘James Bond’ of the central banking space. If other than Liam Neeson, there’s a man ‘with a special set of skills’, it’s him. As no one could have successfully steered India through the global crisis and fallout. India’s GDP has seen a growth at a time when most of the countries’ GDP growth is significantly dropping, and this man has played a major role making it one of the emerging-market stars of the moment.
This man is the Reserve Bank of India’s 23rd governor, Raghuram Rajan. And he is all the internet is debating about these days.
Well, a part of it is debate but a larger part of it is online petition.
What’s the buzz?
Indians are thankful for the pure genius of this man. And now that his tenure is coming to end in early-September, people all over India are swarming with numerous political and corporate opinions. Already seven online petitions are doing the rounds in support of a second term for him and have already garnered nearly 60,000 signatures so far, asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow a second term to Rajan at RBI.
One of the petitions started by Rajesh Palaria from Bengaluru has alone received 57,000 signatures.
And why shouldn’t they? Rajan is no less than a national treasure. Raghuram Rajan has been doing a great job by balancing and maneuvering Indian economy through the populism which endangers it. He is very crucial for India’s growth story now, said his petition.
The other side
A part of Internet also wants to see Rajan go. Two petitions are making a case against Rajan’s tenure but have got relatively little support so far. Some sections of the ruling BJP have openly voiced their opposition to his continuance in the post, although top government functionaries have said that any decision would be taken only closer to the end of his term.
BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy has called for the immediate sacking of Rajan, but the government is yet to spell out its official stance, said a report by PTI.
One of the petitions against Rajan has been started by Lokesh Rastogi, who says,
“If the RBI Governor is not working at the same pace and direction as the government how will the economy grow and the country move smoothly towards development? Raghuram Rajan is a student of old school of thoughts and needs to be changed without delay.”
Unable to make it even beyond 50, this petition has only 15 supporters at the last count. Another petition, with little support again, opposes giving the post of RBI chief to a “foreign talent”.
A former Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Rajan is currently on leave from the Chicago Booth School of Business, where he was Professor of Finance. He was appointed RBI Governor by the previous UPA government. In case he is not given an extension, Rajan would be the first RBI governor since 1992 to not have a five-year term.
The Government’s reaction
The petitions are online and the ball will soon be in government’s court.
However, the attacks by some of the leaders have been of no help here to either side. Rajan has been called a ‘failure to lower interest rates and boost the economy’ Swamy. He has also written twice to Modi calling for sacking of Rajan even before his term comes up for renewal in September. When asked by Wall Street journal, Modi 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
Denouncing any personal attack on Rajan, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on his part said in an interview,
I do not approve of any of these comments being made by anyone as far as the personality is concerned, because the RBI and its Governor is an important institution in Indian economy.
Naushad Forbes, president of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), echoed Jaitley’s stand that personal attacks are unwarranted. “I would only repeat what Finance Minister has said that I don’t think personal attacks are warranted. I don’t think they serve us well at all as a country. They in a sense actually are demeaning. So I agree with him 100 percent,” he said in a meeting at Osaka, Japan.
According to a report in Business Insider, ‘The government is not averse to giving Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan a second term.” Though some government sources claimed that there’s a ‘good equation’ between the two, the report explored how the government's top leadership are not a fan of Rajan speaking on issue other than monetary policy and economy.
Last year when the country witnessed attacks on members of minority communities, Rajan spoke how an atmosphere of intolerance and lack of healthy debate among different ideological strands affects the economic prospects of a country. Again, speaking to a financial news website in mid-April, Rajan had said that India's growth in a situation of global slowdown was a bit-like a Hindi phrase, which when translated, means "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king". His comments caused much offence among certain sections of Indian society and the governor had to clarify his remarks.
Now the government will decide which side to pick and for that we will have to wait until September. The whole situation has turned out to be more dramatic that it should have. But then when has Indian politics ever been less dramatic.