Too Late to Check Swamy?

 By : Tushar Charan

The ‘maverick’ BJP member of the Rajya Sabha, Subramanian Swamy, is out on a hunting spree. He must perhaps be surprised by the ease with which he claimed the scalp of the RBI governor Raghuram Rajan. It was all over within a short time that he spent on Twitter and a letter to the prime minister. The chief economic adviser, Arvind Subramanian is next on his list. It is believed by many that in choosing the RBI governor and the CEA as his targets, Swamy is actually striking at the finance minister, Arun Jaitley.

The finance minister more or less confirmed this belief when he took a dig at Swamy (without naming him) for demanding removal of the CEA. That may look like washing dirty linen in public but it does not dispel the perception that the prime minister continues to believe that Swamy is a useful hit man. That makes Swamy’s position more secure. Those who have watched Swamy since he suddenly appeared on the political horizon nearly five decades ago by shaking the placid waters of Delhi’s IIT with a strike, would say that it is too late to stop him now.

During his long career in politics he has often been accused of making baseless allegations, adopting the ‘shoot and scoot’ style of the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. But Swamy could not have been bothered because what counts ultimately is the effect that a tactic produces. If the target has been shaken and unnerved the purpose is achieved. It helps even more if the reputation or the image of the target suffers, as has been the case of the political targets chosen by Swamy.

Arvind Subramanian may get a temporary reprieve because Swamy has now agreed to ‘suspend’ his demand for his ouster though with a caveat: The government must endorse the ‘patriotic’ credentials of the CEA for him to continue with the suspension of his tirade. That should not be a problem because a government said to be full of ‘ultra- nationalists’ will not admit to having hired an ‘anti-national’.
Arvind Subramanian and his well-wishers, however, may be well advised to keep their fingers crossed—even if he is appointed in place of Raghuram Rajan as RBI governor. Swamy, like Narendra Modi, does not believe in ‘forgive and forget’ philosophy.

The reprieve applies only to Arvind Subramanian. Swamy has a list of 27 whose scalp he must have or else it might be a loss of face that cannot be retrieved. Luckily, he has not set a deadline for it. Nor has he disclosed the names. The rumour mills have, however, started guessing the names; some say it includes BJP leaders.

By the time he is through with this list of 27 it is likely that he would have done some more harm to the party that nominated him to the Rajya Sabha after providing him a bungalow in Luytens Delhi with security cover. ‘Harm’ is also a matter of perception; the top BJP leadership may not agree that Swamy’s ways cause harm to the party.

Earlier, the BJP had admitted him—rather, readmitted–to its fold in 2013 when he merged his Janata Party with it. That had marked the end of a long period of political wilderness for him because he was not getting anywhere with his Janata Party—virtually a one-man show.

There must have been many good reasons for the BJP to do a ‘ghar wapsi’ (home coming) on him. He is often described as a ‘loose cannon’ but he perhaps endeared himself to the Jana Sangh (precursor of the BJP) in late 1960s and early 1970s because he took on the then powerful figure of Indira Gandhi and the Nehru-Gandhi family in general. He would fire his salvos at Indira Gandhi relentlessly and he practices that untiringly on his other targets too. Not that the BJP lacked leaders who could not hit out at the Nehru-Gandhis, but Swamy was capable of making it more spicy.

After some years of bonhomie, the Jana Sangh/BJP began to feel weary of the redoubtable Swamy who was expanding the range of his fires while still heading his one-man political outfit. There came a time when he was throwing dark hints at Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Swamy was then confined to a corner where he could make as much noise as he liked but there would be virtually no listeners. He was no more dominating newspaper headlines. In fact, some newspapers imposed an unspoken ‘ban’ on him.
His wait to recapture the limelight ended when the Congress-led UPA government returned to power for a second tenure of five years. It was a period marked by rapid fall in the popularity of the government which faced a multitude of corruption charges. The interests of the BJP and Swamy had once again converged to work for the defeat of the Congress.

The ‘rehabilitation’ of Swamy as a BJP leading light has been complete; his ‘faults’ like shooting his mouth off have been overlooked as he is seen as a useful figure who would keep the opposition, especially the Congress, engaged in wordy duals and court cases aplenty. With its aim to rid the country free of the Congress, BJP needs a man like Swamy in its ranks even though he may cause some embarrassment occasionally.

The Rajan episode has obviously not gone down well with the urban classes. But trust Swamy to find ways to divert attention to other personalities. One that he has chosen for the moment is Arvind Subramanian. If he has announced a temporary truce in his war against Arvind Subramanian it only a tactical withdrawal. He has not shifted his target; his hit list will neither shrink nor disappear.

He might have noted the negative fallout from the Raghuram Rajan affair. That only required a change in tactics for going after the CEA. Killing two powerful ‘birds’ in quick succession will not be in his or his party’s interest. Many observers have said that though Prime Minister Modi had snubbed him in Times Now interview, Swamy will always be Swamy, ready for battles against all those he thinks are not ‘mentally’ Indian. (Syndicate Features)

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