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Whatever I say will be ‘problematic’: Raghuram Rajan evades question on PM Modi

Having faced a slew of attacks over speaking his mind on a range of issues, Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan, it now appears, has learnt the art of avoidance. While that may stoke
India TV Business Desk London August 11, 2016 18:13 IST
India TV Business Desk

Having faced a slew of attacks over speaking his mind on a range of issues, Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan, it now appears, has learnt the art of avoidance. While that may stoke curiosity among those well-versed with taxation parlance, it is certainly not the case. 

Rajan was in the thick of attacks for having aired his views on the issue of intolerance. His reported run-ins with the higher-ups in power over the autonomy 0of the central bank have been no hidden secret. The government’s strong retort to his ‘in’famous ‘one-eyed king’ remark on the Indian economy could be a case in point. 

As Rajan prepares for a return to academia, it seems Rajan has now learnt that speaking one’s mind while occupying a position of power does not bode well for the individual, or so it would appear. 

A recent example is Rajan’s interview to BBC. In an effort to pass questions on Modi during an interview, Rajan said whatever he would say on Prime Minister will be “problematic”.

Rajan, whose tenure at RBI has been marked with several controversies, was asked to describe Modi in a televised rapid-fire like interview with BBC.

“I think I will pass on that question. Whatever answer I give will be problematic, so I will just pass,” said the on-leave professor of finance at Chicago University, who will return to academia after end of his three-year term at RBI on September 4.

Rajan also ruled out joining politics. “I think that is one place where my wife overrides everything and her answer is ‘no’,” he said on joining politics.

Asked how he feels about being on the list of India’s ‘most desirable men’, the 53-year-old RBI governor quipped: “I wish they had done it when I was 25.”

Rajan described himself as a “boring guy” and said his being described as ‘Rockstar Banker’ is an “overblown” statement.

In an TV interview on Wednesday, the former IMF chief economist termed political attacks on him as “abominable” and said that he was open to staying a bit longer to complete the unfinished work of bank clean up, but was perfectly happy to go.

Rajan, who announced in June that he would not serve another term at RBI, said the dialogue with the government did not reach a stage where he could have agreed to stay on.

In recent months, Rajan has faced a slew of personal attacks from BJP MP Subramanian Swamy who had alleged that the former IMF chief economist was “mentally not fully Indian” and sent confidential and sensitive financial information abroad.

Rajan has also faced criticism by some others for his controversial remarks on various occasions. At a select media interaction earlier this week after presenting his last monetary policy, he strongly defended his views saying they were “perfectly legitimate” ones and within the remit of a central bank head.

“In none of those speeches that I have made has there been an explicit criticism or an implicit criticism of the government. There are people who read the interpretation of what is the speech I have given,” he said.

Rajan said his concerns on the Make in India campaign -- wherein he had pitched for ‘Make for India’ given the fragile economic conditions the world-over -- have come true.

In case of the post-Dadri speech at his alma mater IIT-Delhi, Rajan had reiterated the need to be open for ideas as a service-sector driven economy. 

Defending these views, Rajan said, “That speech was about the fact that in order to grow as a country which is largely a service economy, we have to be open to ideas. Once you reach the frontier, the only way you can grow is by ideas. And in order to get those ideas, you have to have tolerance for unorthodox ideas because those unorthodox ideas is how we move forward.”

“As a society which is developing, which in some places is near the frontier, we have to have an open dialogue,” Rajan added. 

“I haven’t in a sense talked about (things like) dance and music. That would be exceeding my remit,” he quipped.

(With PTI inputs)