Less than a week after his series of attacks and the silence of the government prompted RBI governor Raghuram Rajan to announce that he will not stay for a second term, BJP Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy on Wednesday called for the sacking of chief economic advisor (CEA) Arvind Subramanian for his alleged “anti-India stance” on economic issues in the past.
But this time, the government responded almost immediately. Finance minister Arun Jaitley mounted a strong defence of Subramanian — he was appointed by the government in October 2014 — and pointed out that the BJP too did not share Swamy’s view.
“The government has full confidence in CEA Arvind Subramanian. His advice to government from time to time has been of great value. In fact, the presentation that Mrs Verma (Textiles Secretary Rashmi Verma) made just now on the textiles and garment sector (at the media briefing on Cabinet decisions Wednesday), I think this was also prepared in active consultation with him. And the party, of course, has said that they don’t share Dr Swamy’s view,” Jaitley told reporters.
Swamy, who had earlier attacked the RBI governor through letters addressed to the Prime Minister, took to Twitter on Wednesday to attack the CEA: “Who said to US Cong on 13/3/13 the US should act against India to defend US Pharmaceuticals interests? Arvind Subramanian MoF !! Sack him!!!”.
“Guess who encouraged Congi to become rigid on GST clauses? Jaitley’s economic adviser Arvind Subramanian of Washington DC,” he said in his second tweet.
Reacting to these tweets, Jaitley said: “The party has said that they don’t share Dr Swamy’s view. I would also add one more fact. From the point of view of the discipline of Indian politicians to what extent should we attack those, the discipline and constraints of whose offices prevent them from responding, and this has happened more than once.”
Asked by a reporter whether people like Swamy should be reined in, Jaitley shot back “thank you for your suggestion”. To another query on whether Swamy was actually questioning the Finance Minister’s integrity in the guise of the CEA, Jaitley said: “I have already answered that question, I have nothing more to add.”
He also rejected allegations that the government was not quick to defend Rajan against Swamy’s allegations and that this had prompted the latter to opt out of a second term. Responding to a query on the issue, he said: “The premise of the question is incorrect. I had categorically spoken on this subject when the comments were made about the RBI Governor. Even party president had specifically stated that party does not agree with that comment which was made.”
On May 26, Jaitley, in response to a question on Swamy’s allegations on Rajan, had said: “I don’t approve of personal comments against anyone, let alone the RBI governor.” He said this on NDTV when he was asked about the continuing attacks on Rajan in the past few months and whether there was an effort on part of the government to ring-fence the governor.
“One can agree or disagree with their judgment, but that’s a debate on issues. But I don’t think we should allow a public discourse where instead of debate on issues we concentrate on debate on persons,” Jaitley had said.
In May, when the The Wall Street Journal asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi on whether he supported the reappointment of Rajan as governor, Modi said: “I don’t think this administrative subject can be an issue for the media. And that issue is only in September, not now.”