God-sent opportunity Rajan’s revelation
With reference to “A vote for competence” (September 4), the editorial states that the integrity of Nirmala Sitharaman ( pictured) may have been taken into account ahead of her selection in view of the heavy defence purchases that are expected. Similar views have been repeated ad nauseam by many other commentators since the allotment of her portfolio. But there is a need to asses her selection on other parameters, too. Sadly, the lingering shadows of the Bofors controversy, continuously overplayed by those opposing the Congress party, have reduced the status and stature of the defence minister of a country boasting one of the largest armed forces in the world, by projecting the incumbent as mainly a buyer of defence equipment.
We forget that defence ministers are primarily expected to defend the countries from any external threat/aggression and, when necessary, even mobilise public sentiment to come out openly in support of the armed forces who make supreme sacrifices with their lives. Every army has won a war only when it has found the public support and willingness to match their sacrifices, a preparation every defence minister has to carry out. Defence ministers of superpowers, a club India aspires to be in, have always carried enough political heft even to speak their minds freely to their political masters when they have differed in the approaches to be adopted (even when convinced by the generals) while dealing with enemies. He/she is often the critical bridge between armed forces and the political leadership. We may also admit that the armed forces have always remained an exclusive bastion of men and the comfort, confidence and respect the generals feel in their defence minister is crucial when the push comes to shove in conflict zones.
On a lighter note, the first advice to our new defence minister may be to learn to recognise the ranks of the armed forces personnel (men and women) from their badges and stars, which is a common faux pas made by us civilians, despite our best intentions to pay respect to our men in uniform. (The best first introduction to our armed forces set-up used to be the booklet used by new entrants to the National Cadet Corps in our college days.) Finally, we must admit that Sitharaman, thanks to her persona, enjoys a lot of goodwill of the masses who may feel they have a stake in her success. A successful tenure as a defence minister has the potential to catapult her to a select group of tallest current leaders of our nation. She must grab this godsend opportunity with both hands. Y P Issar Karnal With reference to “Bureaucracy tries to erode RBI Governor’s powers: Rajan” (September 4), Raghuram Rajan, with his long teaching experience and depth of knowledge of the subjects he handles, is an excellent communicator of ideas. In this context, his new book “I Do What I Do” which comes out after the one-year self-imposed “silence” will be more explosive than the memoirs his two immediate predecessors brought out in quick succession in recent years. The obvious difference between the memoirs of Duvvuri Subbarao and Y V Reddy and the collection of speeches and writings during his tenure that has been brought out in the book by Rajan is that while the memoirs were written in leisure post-retirement, “I Do What I Do” interprets events during his three-year tenure on Mint Road, by merely adding notes or explanations to what he had already spoken or written as Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor.
As always, Rajan has pre-empted his adversaries from reading between the lines. One of two examples is about his exit on completion of his “sanctioned leave”. Now he blames the absence of “offer on the table”, while everyone knows his one foot was all through in Chicago! Two, the cautious observation about short-term economic costs outweighing long-term benefits of demonetisation now being made public is a masterstroke. As the opinion was given “orally”, it is always possible to play with words like long-term benefits and short-term losses. In any case, the revelation makes it abundantly clear that the RBI was associated with the groundwork for demonetisation from February 2016. Having said that, Rajan’s contribution to sorting out some of the long-pending relationship issues between the government and the RBI and expediting banking sector reforms will be remembered in India with gratitude.