Raghuram Rajan, former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor and one of the best-known economists in the world, on Wednesday morning joined Rahul Gandhi in the Bharat Jodo Yatra, delighting the Congress and triggering heartburn in the BJP. Rajan walked for around 10km with Rahul from Sawai Madhopur to Dausa in Rajasthan.
Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh said: “There was a discussion on the economy, GST, how to boost private investments and exports, the implications of the rupee-dollar exchange rate. Rahul Gandhi wanted to know the former RBI governor’s views on finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s claim that the Indian economy was very strong.”
While Congress supporters were elated and expressed their desire to see Rajan as the next finance minister, some of them taunted the BJP for “having better economists like Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravishankar”.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge tweeted: “A strong and sound economy is a combination of growth and welfare. Our vision is to reclaim that India. We are glad that former RBI Governor and leading economist Raghuram Rajan joined the Bharat Jodo Yatra in our endeavour to build an agenda for the future.”
Rahul himself took care to indicate that the symbolism of somebody of Rajan’s calibre and international standing joining the Yatra went beyond the economy.
The Congress leader tweeted: “Freedom is the essence of democracy and harmony is the foundation of a prosperous economy. We walk for unity and to secure India’s future.”
Rajan indeed symbolises more than the economy; he has a holistic vision for India’s development and has spoken against decisions like demonetisation and crony capitalism flourishing under Narendra Modi.
After quitting the RBI apparently because of differences over policies of Prime Minister Modi, Rajan hasn’t hesitated in expressing his progressive views about democracy and secularism either. Little wonder the buzz from the Bharat Jodo Yatra left the BJP’s ears burning.
The party’s IT cell chief, Amit Malviya, who has been attacking the Bharat Jodo Yatra on trivial issues instead of engaging with the substantive content of the mission, tweeted: “Raghuram Rajan, former RBI Governor, a Congress appointee, joining Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra is not a surprise. He fancies himself as the next Manmohan Singh. Just that his commentary on India’s economy should be discarded with disdain. It is coloured and opportunistic.”
After Rajan, whose predictions on the economy draw global attention, another highly experienced RBI governor, Urjit Patel, who studied at the London School of Economics and has a PHD in economics from Yale University, resigned, compelling Modi to opt for Shaktikanta Das, a student of history.
The BJP’s foreign affairs department head, Vijay Chauthaiwale, tweeted: “One former RBI governor became head of government and the country lost ten precious years. Thanks to Modi, India will not repeat that mistake. RRR (Raghuram Rajan) can walk from Delhi to Chicago.”
This was a jibe aimed at Manmohan, another economist of repute and respected by world leaders, who introduced economic liberalisation in India and served as Prime Minister for a decade.