Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, personally offered a Rajya Sabha nomination to Raghuram Rajan, former governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) whose term was not renewed by the Narendra Modi government.
Rajan was hesitant as he did not want to appear politically partisan after his rocky relationship with the BJP government, but top sources in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) say that Kejriwal persuaded him to think about it. His final word to Kejriwal on the offer was that he would “consider it” and let him know.
Authoritative sources say that the three Rajya Sabha seats that will come to AAP in January will also be given to “good people” like Rajan selected by Kejriwal. Kejriwal is categorical that no AAP leader will be given a Rajya Sabha seat.
Kejriwal has effectively killed two birds with one stone. He has stanched the public bloodletting in AAP and stymied leaders like poet Kumar Vishwas who were openly asking for a Rajya Sabha seat. He has also put an end to the endless lobbying in the second rank of AAP leaders by deciding to go with candidates with impeccable credentials and stature like Rajan, who cannot be publicly opposed by any AAP leader without appearing churlish.
According to a senior AAP leader, “This is typical Kejriwal out-of-the-box thinking. He has outmanoeuvred intra-party opposition and rebellion and ensured that some creative thinking is displayed in the bog standard mire of Indian politics. In fact, after Kejriwal’s offer, if Rajan is reluctant, all opposition parties should offer to make him a joint candidate. This might make the prospect of Rajan and his formidable intellect being available to India again and oppose Modi’s ill-thought economic moves.”
Rajan was practically hounded out of office after the BJP launched a sustained and systematic campaign against him and the Modi government did not offer him a second term. BJP MP Subramanian Swamy even said “he was not mentally fully Indian”.
Rajan, as RBI governor, forced out the evergreening of public sector bank loans to influential cronies of the government and ensured that they reflected as bad debt in the bank’s books. Rajan jealously guarded the autonomy of the RBI, built up over 70 years, and was not afraid to speak his mind on a host of public interest issues. He would certainly not have spinelessly endorsed the mindless decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes foisted on the RBI under his successor Urjit Patel by Modi.
It’s ironic that Kejriwal, always a political maverick, made the offer to Rajan on the one-year anniversary of notebandi.
Speaking to me earlier, AAP co-founder Kumar Vishwas had been open about his desire for the upcoming Rajya Sabha seat saying, “I am human, I also have ambitions. I and a multitude of my supporters feel that I would be an effective voice against the Congress and the BJP in the Upper House.”
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He had also said that he was making many AAP leaders insecure, without naming Kejriwal, and said that he was forced to go and fight the Amethi elections against Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi by Kejriwal, who had said that “We cannot appear to be soft on the Congress”.
Vishwas said that “despite being an AAP founder, I have never even drunk tea at the secretariat”. How Vishwas will react to this news, which negates his publicly-stated desires, remains to be seen.
This move will also make AAP leaders like Ashutosh and Sanjay Singh, who were also in contention for the three seats, unhappy.
But as of now, Kejriwal has certainly pulled a rabbit out of his hat. If Rajan and the two other “good people” accept the offer, the Rajya Sabha will be a more interesting place. Rajan in the Upper House will certainly make the BJP very unhappy.
Swati Chaturvedi is a Delhi-based journalist.