Stardom can be a sin in the BJP, just as much as success can be. At least that’s the explanation, some say, for the campaign against RBI governor Raghuram Rajan. For Rajan, as BJP insiders say, has not just been successful in delivering on the PM’s agenda, he has even acquired an international fan following. “You think that will not be resented? It’s a cardinal sin,” says a BJP leader in Delhi.
The attack has taken on both a personal and political dimension. At the personal level, Rajan’s excellence as an economist is seen as a threat by those helming economic affairs in government. The trio of an able lawyer, a former investment banker and an academic in the finance ministry, people in the BJP inner circle say, “feels threatened by the sheer heft of Rajan’s ability as an economist. He is a direct challenger.”
If the PM has chosen to ignore the smear campaign against Rajan so far—and seems likely to continue to do so—government sources say it’s because he is “enamoured with Rajan for his abilities and does not approve of the anti-Rajan campaign”. For the PM, the RBI governor is perhaps the best bet to take up the difficult challenge of controlling inflation and keeping India insulated from the economic downslide in the rest of the world. What further helps Rajan is his pursuit of the promotion of homegrown industry, which is completely in alignment with the PM’s. The PM, according to sources, also believes Rajan is the only person who can make FDI an effective reality for India. Of course, the PM benefits from having an able economist by him to keep his ministers in matters related to the economy in check and on their toes.
But does that take away from the fact that the PM is under immense pressure from various lobbies to drop Rajan when his term finishes in September 2016? Perhaps not. Why? A small section in the RSS is fine with Rajan continuing to do a good job, as long as the RSS agenda is not affected. But the larger sections, dominated by the ideological far right and the economic far right, who literally make for the swadeshi brigade, are bitterly opposed to any bigger role for Rajan.
For this lobby in the RSS, the resentment for Rajan comes from “their deepset distrust of anyone with an IMF and US background”. They are also fearful of Rajan’s persona and star status, making them believe that any further rise for Rajan will lead to the creation of another power-centre based on the personality cult that Rajan seems to enjoy. They firmly believe the personality-cult syndrome in the BJP already got overemphasised with Modi and Amit Shah heading the government and the party in 2014.
Clearly, Subramanian Swamy, who’s gunning for Rajan, has a bit of a personal axe to grind. Sources confirm that Swamy’s own ambition to become finance minister himself has guided his dislike bordering on hatred for both Jaitley and Rajan. Meanwhile, Jaitley, even as he sounds supportive of Rajan in public, is said to see Rajan as direct competition and therefore grudges the trust the PM places in Rajan. Party sources consider the Jaitley camp— comprising MoS Nirmala Sitharaman and Jayant Sinha—also as anti-Rajan.