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Swamy & Frenemies

The man is pugnacious but equally unpredictable. So is the BJP taking too big a risk by giving him a stage?

Swamy & Frenemies
Shooting Star | Photograph by Jitender Gupta
Swamy & Frenemies
outlookindia.com
2016-05-06T21:05:21+05:30

Nominated members of the Rajya Sabha rarely make the kind of splash that Dr Subramanian Swamy made after taking oath on April 26. For the maverick politician, this was par for the course. Even as the congratulations poured in, he was busy serving a notice for a discussion in the House on the AgustaWestland helicopter deal and claiming the law would soon catch up with ‘Ma-beta’, a clear reference to his perennial targets Sonia and Rahul. They’d soon be in jail, he boasted. It was vintage Swamy at his clear, acerbic and rabble-rousing best, shooting from the lip and living up to his well-earned reputation of being a loose cannon. Within days of his induction, Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha was being referred to as Swamy Hour. On two successive days his comments were expunged; undeterred, the newest BJP MP managed to insinuate culpability and criminality even before the Agusta debate was over.

His arrival in the Rajya Sabha has galvanised the BJP contingent. He told Outlook it was a surprise nomination, but it seems part of a larger strategy. His explanation is that the BJP had tried to be nice to the Congress on the advice of “some people” within the party but that didn’t seem to work. His nomination is part of a course correction, he says, leaving no doubt about the role he is expected to play—some would say cat’s paw, but it’s likelier a Rottweiler’s.

There’s a double-edged aspect to his role, for he’s unsparing of his own party too. Till recently, Swamy has been ext­remely critical of the Modi government. In December 2014, he’d apparently tweeted ‘Why BJP is the new Congress’. Last September, he wrote to Modi that the economy was in bad shape and criticised both finance minister Arun Jaitley and RBI governor Raghuram Rajan. And he’d openly...

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