By Hardik Rajgor Nov. 19, 2018
So much has happened between the RBI and the government in the last few months that it feels like a retelling of A Series of Unfortunate Events. In August, the government appointed S Gurumurthy, an RSS ideologue, to the RBI’s central board. The only thing the RSS has in common with the RBI is a terrible fashion sensibility.
Congratulations on the Statue of Unity, it’s a marvellous structure. While I appreciate you building a statue for one Patel, I am uncomfortable with the idea that you want to turn another Patel (me) into a living statue. Accuse me of overreacting, but how do you expect me to feel when so much has happened in the last couple of months? The independence of the RBI is under so much threat these days that I had to change the subject line of this mail to Preserve Bank of India.
I preferred our arguments over those long mail threads with half the office marked, but when Arun Jaitley decided to make the feud public, I had no choice but to awaken the Gir Lion inside me. On purpose, I chose a guy named Viral to issue comments on my behalf so that the message would be loud, clear, and… viral.
I get it, this is election year and you want more money so you can roll out some schemes and campaign across the country to tell us what an awful Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was. Who doesn’t want to dole out cash just before election season? Even my neighbour’s three-year-old son wishes he could buy a new phone everyday but it’s a stupid idea and that’s why he doesn’t handle finances at home. Remember the time you thought demonetisation was the best thing since sliced bread? The brahmastra that the Indian economy needed – and you laboured that metaphor further by calling it a “surgical strike” on black money? Well, guess what? You asked for our advice and we told you it was a shitty idea but like that drunk friend who texts his ex, you went ahead anyway. How did that work out for y’all?
I know you don’t like me, and can I just say, the feeling is mutual.
There’s a reason the RBI and the Finance Ministry have distinct jobs, and it’s best if you didn’t interfere in ours and we didn’t interfere in yours. Did you see what happened when Raghu Ram was asked to do comedy in Tees Maar Khan? People are still recovering in hospitals. At this point, our story feels like a retelling of A Series of Unfortunate Events. In August, you appointed S Gurumurthy, an RSS ideologue, to the RBI’s central board. First off, the only thing the RSS has in common with the RBI is a terrible fashion sensibility. But Gurumurthy surprised everyone when he claimed that India’s liquidity problem could be solved if the power to print currency was in the government’s hands. My economics degree from Yale University cried actual tears.
I really wish you lot could make up your minds. One day we are accused of reckless lending in the past that led to the current bad loans crisis. The next day we are accused of choking up the banking system with too many regulations. Which one is it?! Aadmi kare to kya kare?
As we speak, you are drafting new regulations to enable closer supervision of the RBI. Why don’t you take my Gmail and Windows password while you are at it, eh? I will submit my body to the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, as I have no work to do here anymore. You also want to invoke section 7 and give us direct orders, something that has never happened in the RBI’s 83-year old history. Sure, that’s what I want on my CV – to take directions from people who thought demonetisation was a great idea and get blamed for the next blunder.
I have to say, though, that I have one thing to thank you for. For the first time since the RBI started, the general public is aware of what goes on behind our closed doors. Even when Raghuram Rajan was the governor, folks would only discuss him as a thirst trap. Now, however, people ought to be discussing the India-Australia cricket series and not RBI vs Government.
I know you don’t like me, and can I just say, the feeling is mutual. You may not have respect for me and the institution I represent, but the markets and the world look at us as an independent regulator with a strong influence on monetary policy. If I were to quit at this moment, right before a national election, it would send alarm bells ringing and the ripples would be felt in the market. It’s like changing the captain from Virat Kohli to Rohit Sharma in the middle of the World Cup.
So we know we are both dependent on each other. Although we might have different ways of looking at it, we have similar goals. We have no option but to work in tandem. So how about a radical new way of doing things… by doing them the old way? Let’s stay out of each other’s hair and get on with it. As they say in Mumbai, “tu tera dekh na?”