How to Be a Successful RBI Governor


How to Be a Successful RBI Governor

Illustration: Saachi Mehta/ Arré

On Saturday evening, as I sat cursing the stillborn rain like every other frustrated Mumbaikar, a newsbreak made me even more blue – Dr RRR would not seek a second term as RBI governor. The first thought that came to my mind was “Lag gaye l**de”, the second was, “Damn I should have bought some put options.” Now, as a white-collar, educated-at-expensive-university kind of guy, I’m not usually the one to give into the lag-gaye-l***de sentiment, but I felt the situation called for it.

I had only heard of R3 as the dude who predicted doomsday, the 2008 subprime crisis, way back in 2005, (second only to Dr Swamy who predicted it in the 1920s, of course) but his appointment was greeted with a 350-odd point jump on the Sensex, which was frankly unprecedented for a banker. Raghuram “James Bond” Rajan had arrived and how.

Now, I owe it to the finance guy in me, to point out that at the time Rajan took over retail inflation rate was near 10 per cent and the rupee was going down like a Kardashian. There was a time bomb ticking in the banks’ NPAs that no one wanted to touch. In the years that followed a lot changed. Today, inflation is at 5.7 per cent, forex reserves are at $ 363 billion, balance sheets have been cleaned up, the rupee is stable, and most importantly the Sensex is up by 32 per cent. (If you’re a bhakt you may of course disagree and continue to believe that markets go up only because of Modiji and go down ONLY because there is a global/liquidity crisis.)

I won’t go on about Rajan’s other achievements, simply because this is a case that is not judged on performance (it seldom is in these situations). The reasons for his ouster are more simplistic – as simple as I don’t your like attitude, I don’t like your opinions, I don’t bloody like you. I got to hand it to Dr Swamy, a true exponent of the art of inception, who started it all with the “he is not Indian” theory, thus giving voice to the general sentiment in the country that if you don’t wear your Indianness on your sleeve, and you don’t have a certificate of patriotism from Anupam Kher, you’re pretty much fucked.

But now he’s proved himself to be a buffoon of such epic proportions that I’m terrified he’ll officially usher in the era of voodoo economics.

Dr Rajan broke the number one rule of being an accountant, sorry RBI governor, that is: Know your role and shut your mouth (doffing my hat to The Rock here). What was Rajan doing talking about intolerance and about corrupt politicians? Firstly, everyone knows that there is no such thing as a corrupt politician, and secondly, there is no such thing as a corrupt politician. I mean what’s wrong with the good old no-comment protocol? His predecessors did a fine job of always using it, didn’t they?

A lot of people think Rajan’s fate was sealed after he voiced his unpatriotic opinions, but I think it was cracking a joke in actual English and wearing a natty suit to work that spelled doom. You can’t do that, bro. It’s better to just stick to the bandhgala, no?

Well, anyway, what is done is done. The past is over and now there is only the future to look forward to. Chetan Chauhan, I think, will do an outstanding job as the RBI chief. (After all how hard is it to open Dr Swamy’s emails and hit forward?) But some questions still gnaw at me. Is Dr Swamy really going to be the man behind the curtain? If it’s so I am scared, very scared. I used to actually be a fan of the guy – all his anti-establishment rhetoric pleased me, as did his take down of Jayalalithaa. But now he’s proved himself to be a buffoon of such epic proportions that I’m terrified he’ll officially usher in the era of voodoo economics. Also, why is our PM, who is actually in the country for a change, and who generally has an opinion on everything doing a Manmohan Singh? And lastly and most tragically, is this a warning to all government employees to toe the line or else start packing?

As I contemplate this and other mysteries of the universe, I still can’t figure one thing out. Why is the Sensex up by 115 points? The “independent” funds seem to be at it again.

Lag gaye…