Hand in the till

FrontLine - - COVER STORY - BY V. SRIDHAR

ON DE­CEM­BER 10, A DAY BE­FORE THE Naren­dra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party regime suf­fered its elec­toral triple strike in the Hindi-speak­ing heart­land came the stun­ning an­nounce­ment of the res­ig­na­tion of the Gov­er­nor of the Re­serve Bank of In­dia, Ur­jit Pa­tel. Tellingly, while Ur­jit Pa­tel thanked his col­leagues for their sup­port in his part­ing state­ment is­sued to the me­dia, noth­ing like that was re­served for ei­ther the of­fi­cials of the Fi­nance Min­istry or the gov­ern­ment in gen­eral. Ob­vi­ously, Ur­jit Pa­tel was leav­ing in a fit of pique. The in­escapable con­clu­sion on the tim­ing was that even though Ur­jit Pa­tel re­alised that his con­tin­u­a­tion at the helm had be­come im­pos­si­ble be­cause of the mount­ing bar­rage of at­tacks on the in­de­pen­dence of the in­sti­tu­tion, he could at least time his de­par­ture in a man­ner that would max­imise its re­tribu­tive im­pact.

The cri­sis high­lighted yet again the ut­ter in­abil­ity of the Modi regime to work with any in­sti­tu­tion in the spirit of demo­cratic co­op­er­a­tion and mu­tual re­spect that tol­er­ated dis­sent. The im­pres­sion that Modi seeks full-spec­trum dom­i­nance of any re­la­tion­ship with In­dian in­sti­tu­tions has thus so­lid­i­fied after this exit of a top gov­ern­ment func­tionary. Ur­jit Pa­tel’s re­place­ment, Shak­tikanta Das, the for­mer Union Fi­nance Sec­re­tary who res­o­lutely han­dled me­dia queries in the af­ter­math of In­dia’s ad­ven­ture with de­mon­eti­sa­tion in Novem­ber 2016 even as Ur­jit Pa­tel, as the cus­to­dian of the na­tional cur­rency, re­mained im­pas­sive, re­in­forced the gen­eral con­sen­sus that Modi seeks to take con­trol of the cen­tral bank in or­der to put it to use in the gen­eral elec­tion that is just months away. To get a sense of why Modi is so

In a re­mark­able dis­play of brinks­man­ship, the em­bat­tled Naren­dra Modi regime goes for broke by forc­ing the Re­serve Bank Gov­er­nor to quit. Clearly, Modi seeks to­tal con­trol of the bank­ing sys­tem to boost his sag­ging fortunes as he pre­pares to face the elec­torate in 2019.

RBI GOV­ER­NOR Ur­jit Pa­tel (right) and Deputy Gov­er­nor Vi­ral Acharya at a news con­fer­ence after the mon­e­tary pol­icy re­view in Mum­bai, on De­cem­ber 5. Five days later Ur­jit Pa­tel re­signed as Gov­er­nor.

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