Stage set for Swamy-Jaitley showdown

Stage set for Swamy-Jaitley showdown

By Pankaj Vohra | 25 June, 2016
Modi should clear the air on this impending and quite inevitable confrontation that has begun.

The irrepressible Subramanian Swamy appears to be in a combative mood and has given enough indication of taking on the most powerful minister in the Union Cabinet, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The maverick MP’s actions are as unpredictable as the man himself and of late he has taken the responsibility of lashing out at senior functionaries of the government who in his perception are not serving the “best interests of the nation”.

It is left for everyone to guess whether he has clearance from the top for doing what he is doing. However, the message clearly out in the open is that he is not going to relent in his pursuits that continue to be a cause for embarrassment for the government. Reacting to Jaitley’s defence of Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser, and Shaktikanta Das, Economic Affairs Secretary, Swamy on Friday hinted that there could be “a bloodbath”. Jaitley while suggesting restraint by politicians had stated that “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.” He evidently had Swamy in mind and his comments were meant to re-assure his colleagues in the Finance Ministry that he was there to prevent them from being badgered by his party MP.

However, not the one to be taking things lying down, Swamy shot back, “people giving me unasked for advice of discipline and restraint should realise that if I disregard discipline there would be a bloodbath”. His reaction was seen as a veiled threat to the Finance Minister who overall has a very dismal view of what Swamy says and does. Jaitley is the closest confidant of the Prime Minister and Swamy seems to have the backing of a faction in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The perception is that he was inducted in the Rajya Sabha by Narendra Modi himself.

Varied questions were raised over why the government had decided to bring in Swamy as a nominated member of the august House. One interpretation was that his entry was a signal to the Cabinet that Modi was not bound down by any one person’s advice and had therefore brought in Swamy for a specific purpose. The second interpretation was that he had been given the berth to go after the Gandhis to subdue them into submission in Parliament. Sonia Gandhi has since made it publicly known that she feared no one and thus would take on any person who works against the ideology of her party.

Swamy has left no opportunity to hit out at Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and her key advisers and has raised the issue of wrongdoings in the National Herald case, which experts agree have major legal implications and could therefore pose enormous problems for the present Congress high command.

However, the real reasons for his dislike for the Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan, Arvind Subramanian and Shaktikanta Das are still not clear. The three have been serving the government and if Modi and his ministers have any issues with them, they have no express reasons to keep them in their positions.

Swamy’s sole judgement is not sufficient enough to show them the door unless Modi concurs with his views and acts accordingly. In case he does not, it should be made amply clear so that his colleagues and others know where he stands.

There is little purpose served to have a senior MP sniping at key figures of the government while everyone else just looks on helplessly.

It is evident that Modi and his other close confidant and BJP president Amit Shah have an aversion for the political power play in Lutyens’ Delhi, reference to which has been made several times by them since assuming office. Both are from Gujarat and it is Jaitley who helped them to initially navigate through the dense complexities of New Delhi’s political quagmire. He has been their goal keeper and the screening figure on the assessment of a number of individuals.

There is no dearth of ambitious people who do not like Jaitley because they feel, rightly or wrongly, that he is the reason why they have not received what they believe the Prime Minister would have bestowed on them. Their number has been swelling despite the fact that they do not have the courage to hit out at the Finance Minister. It is this constituency of BJP hopefuls that Swamy has apparently nurtured by his sharp attacks on Jaitley’s close aides in the bureaucracy and elsewhere.

Jaitley, without doubt one of the most highly regarded ministers in the Cabinet is an important member of Team Modi as it tries to find ways and means of going forward. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that Modi should clear the air on this impending and quite inevitable confrontation that is going to spill into the third year of his Prime Ministership unless he goes in for immediate damage control. Between us.

 

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