In Subramanian Swamy's World, Raghuram Rajan Is An 'Anti-National' Because He Holds A Green Card

18/05/2016 2:57 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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NEW DELHI, INDIA - JANUARY 9: BJP leader Subramanian Swamy during a seminar on the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya where he asserted that nothing will be done forcibly or against the law, at Delhi University’s North Campus, on January 9, 2016 in New Delhi, India. Swamy also claimed that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had supported the temple and asked the Congress to do the same. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

He wants to be a one-man show called Swamy and No Friends.

Dr. Subramanian Swamy has legions of followers in social media but he seems hell-bent on making sure he has far more influential enemies.

The Gandhis were not enough. So now he’s trained his guns on RBI governor Raghuram Rajan.

Swamy who had ambitions of being India’s finance minister understands economics. But he knows that going after Rajan for the Wholesale Price Index or short term lending rates will make people's eyes glaze over. But his patriotism? That's a different story.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Swamy accuses Rajan of being “mentally not fully Indian” because he has renewed his green card while being the governor of the Reserve Bank of India.

Rajan is on leave from his job as professor of finance at the University of Chicago. And that makes him not shuddh desi enough. This sounds ludicrous and would be funny if Swamy, the newly minted Rajya Sabha MP, did not also write in his letter to the PM that the “actions of Dr Rajan lead me to believe that he is acting more as a disrupter of the Indian economy than the person who wants the Indian economy to improve.”

Now we come to a stage where someone like Raghuram Rajan has to do nothing. He does not have to shout slogans. He does not have to refuse to shout slogans. He does not have to not tear posters off walls. He can be adjudged “mentally not fully Indian” merely because he is a green card holder...

While many analysts including those supportive of the BJP have disputed Swamy’s characterization of Rajan’s economic decisions, what’s more dangerous is drawing a direct line connecting Dr. Rajan’s green card to doubting, not his judgement but his motivation. Raghuram Rajan is being made a Trojan horse from Chicago and Swamy wants the Prime Minister to send him packing.

Swamy has effectively lobbed a new definition of anti-national at us.

The BJP has been obsessed lately with wanting to define anti-national on its own terms. The Kanhaiya Kumar fracas at JNU was a major foray into that arena. Sloganeering became the litmus test of anti-nationalism. Did they shout, or not shout, slogans calling for the break-up of India? Did they shout slogans supporting Afzal Guru, convicted by Indian courts and hanged? The Supreme Court had ruled in 1995 that even slogans like Khalistan Zindabad are not seditious. But that was roundly ignored in the rush to brand dissenters de facto anti-national. Then some in the BJP decided to make shouting “Bharat Mata ki Jai” the pro-active litmus test of nationalism. And those who refused, for whatever reason, were dubbed anti-national.

Anupam Kher took that anti-national definition a step further. When Kher was told that outsiders raised those Afzal Guru slogans at JNU, he had his retort ready. Aah, he said, but did you tear those “anti-national” posters down? You didn’t? Gotcha, anti-national.

Soon after that the National Council for Promotion of Urdu got into some hot water for a declaration it required from its authors that “The contents of the book, periodical, manuscript, magazine and project do not have any material which is against the national interest or which may create any sort of hatred amongst the different sections of the society."

raghuram rajan

Thus the definition of patriotism and nationalism gets more and more rigid. Salil Tripathi writes in Mint “Patriotism is being redefined now, measured by the decibel level at which you can shout a particular slogan, and your nationalism is identified by what you shouldn’t eat, mustn’t read, can’t watch, and certainly not share or like on social media”.

Now we come to a stage where someone like Raghuram Rajan has to do nothing. He does not have to shout slogans. He does not have to refuse to shout slogans. He does not have to not tear posters off walls. He can be adjudged “mentally not fully Indian” merely because he is a green card holder teaching at an American university and doing his job but not the way Swamy wants him to. In the world according to Swamy, the green card is clinching proof of the fact that he cannot have India’s best interests at heart. Those things are rendered mutually incompatible. He is a permanent resident alien in American law and equally suspect alien in Swamy’s eyes.

One would like to think this does not matter. Swamy is the master of fulminations. He is the closest thing we have to a Donald Trump, writes Manu Joseph. In the likes of Trump and Swamy, writes Joseph, people find an “outlet” from “despotic and stifling” political correctness. But that’s doing Swamy a disservice. Trump is tapping into an American anger with both major parties, a man prone to gaffes, who seems often unable to complete a sentence coherently, a true interloper in politics.

One cannot help but suspect that the brandishing of Raghuram Rajan’s American green card will be a red flag to many in the RSS.

Swamy is the designated MP of the ruling party. He is far more calculating in his broadsides. His attacks are far more deliberate and planned. He knows his law inside out. He is a gadfly but he does his homework. He played the green card deliberately because he likes to set the cat among the pigeons.

In his latest avatar, the man who once warned us about “the creeping fascism of the RSS”, now leads the information campaign on the Shri Ram Mandir for the RSS. Delhi’s RSS media liaison Rajiv Tuli said “BJP leader Subramanian Swamy will provide the right perspective and put forth facts over Ram temple construction in Ayodhya to RSS volunteers and sympathisers, who in turn, will help stop the disinformation campaign on the issue on social media.”

One cannot help but suspect that the brandishing of Raghuram Rajan’s American green card will be a red flag to many in the RSS. The RSS and its sister organizations have been at loggerheads with many aspects of the Modi government’s economic policies. The Swadeshi Jagran Manch went after FDI with as much zeal at the CPM. The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh went on strike against privatization. These might not have much to do with Rajan per se. But as Swamy goes to battle against Rajan for his own reasons, it would be very handy to have the RSS on his side. And casting aspersion on Rajan’s Indian-ness can be the easiest way to rally the troops.

In the process millions of Indians who live and work abroad for many different reasons will also find their credentials questioned. But Swamy has always been happy to pursue a scorched earth policy to achieve his objectives.

“Mentally not full Indian” sounds like a joke, crying out for a meme. But it’s really a new low. The economic allegations can be debated and debunked as Mint does in five short reasons here but that green card aspersion will hang around like a bad smell, setting a dangerous precedent to go after a class of people.

Swamy might have just created the latest iteration in the evolving project of the new anti-national. He has given us the (green) card-carrying anti-national.

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