Now that Britain has exited from the European Union and we face the prospect of prolonged turmoil in financial markets, we badly need a safe pair of hands as governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Who will succeed Raghuram Rajan?
Ben Bernanke, former head of the US Federal Reserve who brought down US interest rates to zero, is now unemployed and would be an ideal candidate. But after our experience with Rajan, it’s best to avoid guys from the US. Also, as we’ve seen with FTII chief Gajendra Chauhan and censor board boss Pahlaj Nihalani, the rule is you shouldn’t be too well known. That was also how Y Sudershan Rao became head of the Indian Council of Historical Research. That leaves out Bernanke and a whole lot of other economists.
It also excludes Anupam Kher, who’s a very good actor. Why should the RBI governor be an economist? He could easily be a former cricketer, as the appointment of Chetan Chauhan as head of the National Institute of Fashion Technology demonstrates. All he has to do is reduce interest rates. Navjot Singh Sidhu would make a good governor, but what if, when the government asks him for a looser monetary policy, he comes out with one of his famous sayings, ‘You got to choose between tightening your belt or losing your pants’? We are also unsure whether he has sound views on Vedic aviation.
Subramanian Swamy is an economist and he will have no trouble at all cutting interest rates. Trouble is, he seems to have set his sights on higher things.
Now that we have two Chauhans as heads of important institutions, could we have a Chauhan as RBI governor and score a hat-trick? Consider the singer Sunidhi Chauhan. She could make history as the first person to sing a central bank monetary policy statement. But maybe she is too much of a star.
What about Yogi Adityanath or Sakshi Maharaj? They pass Swamy’s test of being ‘mentally fully Indian’ with flying colours. But then they’re badly needed for the UP elections. Likewise Najeeb Jung, the Lieutenant governor of Delhi, has many qualities, but who’ll do the job in Delhi?
Baba Ramdev has an excellent understanding of business. Given his yogic skills, he should have no difficulty in bending a yield curve to the desired shape. But he is earnings crores of rupees from his businesses, why would he take a low-paid job at the RBI?
After Rajan, it would be good to get another NRI, to repair some of the damage done by his exit. Could we have Sunny Leone? Bollywood loves asset inflation, so she will keep interest rates low. Sunny is not from the US, she’s from Canada. But unfortunately, she turns out to be the number one Indian searched on Google, even more than the prime minister. That is a deal-breaker.
Nah, this is too tough a decision. It’s best if the government put out this ad: ‘Wanted — A Reserve Bank of India governor to bring down interest rates. Should not be too talented. Should not have a backbone. Must keep a low profile and not say uncomfortable things. Knowledge of economics handy but not essential. Lack of fan following, especially internationally, vital. Should be mentally fully Indian. Must have the ability to keep Subramanian Swamy happy.’
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
The views expressed are personal