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Subramanian Swamy's attacks on RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan puts BJP in a dilemma

Swamy is seen by some BJP strategists as a useful asset in an Upper House where BJP and National Democratic Alliance are in a minority.

Updated: May 19, 2016, 01.11 AM IST
NEW DELHI: Subramanian Swamy’s attacks on Raghuram Rajan have put BJP in a piquant position, say top party leaders. Many of them argue Rajan shouldn’t get a second term, but few have the stomach for the kind of personal targetting Swamy has done. And yet, strongly critiquing him on this issue is also an unappetising option.

Bharatiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leaders spoke to ET on the condition of anonymity. Swamy did not respond to text messages and emails from ET.

Swamy, whose entry as a nominated member in the Rajya Sabha had strong RSS backing, has led BJP’s offensive against Congress and Nehru-Gandhis on the AgustaWestland issue.

Swamy was also the prime mover in the National Herald case where Sonia and Rahul Gandhi were issued court summons (they later got exemption from personal appearance).

He is seen by some BJP strategists as a useful asset in an Upper House where BJP and National Democratic Alliance are in a minority. And his entry into the House, say senior BJP leaders, wouldn’t have been possible without clearance from the very top.

"BJP’s union ministers cannot cross a certain line and name top Congress leaders or level charges. Other party leaders are good with committee work but do not have the sharpness or the brazen attitude that Swamy has," a union minister told ET.

"He’s better inside and angry at others than outside and angry at us," one BJP leader said, giving another reason why Swamy was inducted into the Rajya Sabha.

This 'usefulness' makes any public critique of Swamy very difficult for BJP, even though some of the party’s top leaders are said to be uncomfortable about the way Swamy has targetted Rajan.

Not that RSS has much of a liking for Rajan and his policies. Swamy has only echoed these views, albeit in very strong words, sources said. RSS also sees Rajan as being more inclined towards the US and does not want him to get a new term in September, Sangh insiders said. "Rajan has himself said he is not keen on a second term and wants to go back (to the US)," a senior Sangh functionary said.

MUDRA Bank not taking off on expected lines is also being blamed on Rajan by RSS and BJP.

As one top RSS leader put it, "These things should be discussed within the government, party and Sangh, they shouldn’t be aired publicly in this fashion". Some RSS leaders said Swamy’s views on Rajan’s "commitment to India" echo that of parivar outfits such as Swadeshi Jagran Manch.

But the Sangh leaders ET spoke to were not inclined to fully approve Swamy’s method, even though they said "there was no question" of upbraiding the controversial Rajya Sabha MP.

Another BJP leader said such attacks will colour any decision on Rajan. "High policy matters are best discussed quietly."

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the media on Tuesday that the manner of Swamy’s attacks was avoidable. But that mild observation has been all that has come from the top of the party and the government.

Many in BJP and some in the government privately think Rajan’s stand on inflation/interest rates is pulling down growth and creating an economic and political problem. There has been public articulation by some ministers on the need for a faster decline in interest rates.

But no senior leader from BJP or the Parivar has come anywhere close to Swamy’s brand of attacks on the RBI governor — the Rajya Sabha MP said there are questions on Rajan’s commitment to India. Many economists, market observers and India Inc leaders, publicly and privately, have expressed horror at Swamy’s attacks on Rajan.

Some in BJP, troubled especially by the nature of Swamy’s critique, point to the MP’s past relations with BJP and Sangh. As one BJP leader observed, Swamy’s 'tea party' with Jayalalithaa was a major factor in the fall of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1999. Swamy, this leader said, had also been a strong critique of RSS in the past.

But as of now, there’s unlikely to be a strong critique of Swamy, never mind the considerable flak he’s drawing for his comments on the RBI governor, said BJP leaders familiar with the leadership’s thinking.

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