Defending his team is necessary and correct
After being seen as not responding strongly enough to defend RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan from Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy’s wild allegations, finance minister Arun Jaitley has done well to, on consecutive days, defend his team against equally intemperate attacks. Having tasted victory, perhaps, with Rajan announcing that he was not going to be available for a second term, the Rajya Sabha MP who is believed to be strongly backed by the RSS, trained his guns on chief economic advisor (CEA) Arvind Subramanian on Tuesday. In a series of tweets, he first accused the CEA of acting anti-Indian while deposing before the US Congress on India’s IPR laws—“Was AS deposing before US Cong Committee against India as a US citizen or Indian?”—and later said it was he that had encouraged the Congress party to become more rigid in its demands on the GST.
Both charges, like the ones against Rajan, were a caricature of the truth. The IPR statement was twisted out of context since all that AS said was that if the US was not able to resolve its issues through dialogue, it should go to the WTO—and that it would find India has a very good record in adhering to WTO rulings; in any case, India also files cases against the US at the WTO. As for the CEA coming out against the 1% tax being proposed on top of the GST—removing this was one of the Congress’ demands—it was a bad idea since it would have a cascading impact on costs and this newspaper has also opposed it.
That was on Tuesday, and Jaitley chose the forum of the new textile policy announcements to publicly defend his CEA. While that got the Rajya Sabha MP to say he was ‘suspending’ his demand for the CEA’s dismissal, he chose to go after economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das on Wednesday—in response to a tweet on Das, Swamy said he thought “there (was) a property deal case pending against him for assisting PC (P Chidambaram) swallow Mahabalipuram prime locations”.
Since Swamy offered no proof to back his allegations, Jaitley was right in talking about the ‘discipline and constraints’ of the offices of bureaucrats/technocrats which prevented “them from responding and this has happened more than once”. He supplemented this with a tweet on how Swamy’s was an unfair and false attack. While the government is well within its rights to not grant Rajan a second term, it is good to see top party leaders coming out in the open to defend their team in lot more unequivocal terms than they have in the past. All of this, of course, begs the question why, unlike others who have been asked to keep quiet after making intemperate remarks, Swamy has been allowed to go on unchecked.