India PM slams party colleague for 'inappropriate' attacks on central bank chief

Mr Subramanian Swamy (above), a lawmaker from Mr Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, had led a public campaign against central bank chief Raghuram Rajan.
Mr Subramanian Swamy (above), a lawmaker from Mr Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, had led a public campaign against central bank chief Raghuram Rajan.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday (June 27) slammed a party colleague for "inappropriate" personal attacks on popular central bank chief Raghuram Rajan, which are thought to have contributed to his departure.

Mr Modi also said he appreciated Mr Rajan's work, just over one week after the Reserve Bank of India governor announced he was standing down at the end of his first term in September.

"I believe Raghuram Rajan's patriotism is no less than any of ours... As much as I know Raghuram Rajan, whatever post he holds, wherever he is, he is someone who will continue to serve the country," Mr Modi told the Times Now news channel in a rare interview aired on Monday. "Those who speak such language (against him) are doing great injustice to him."

Mr Subramanian Swamy, a lawmaker from Mr Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, had led a public campaign against Mr Rajan, accusing him of keeping interest rates too high and saying his time abroad meant he was "mentally not fully Indian".

The Harvard-educated Mr Swamy has since gone on to criticise the candidates reportedly now shortlisted for the RBI job, including chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian.

In his first comments on the controversy, Mr Modi said he did not support such attacks on bureaucrats, branding them publicity stunts.

"Whether it is someone from my party or not, I believe that such things are inappropriate. The nation won't benefit from such publicity stunts," Mr Modi told the television station, without naming Mr Swamy.

"One should be more responsible while conducting themselves. Anyone who believes he is bigger than the system is wrong."

Mr Rajan, a former professor at the University of Chicago, said in his resignation letter to staff this month that he would be returning to academia.

But he also seemed to hint that differences with Mr Modi's government had factored into his decision.

Mr Rajan, who enjoys a mass appeal not normally associated with a banker, is credited with helping to transform India's economy in his three years at the helm, and investors had been widely watching to see if he would seek a second term.

Mr Rajan, who famously predicted the 2008 global financial crisis, has helped stabilise the rupee and tackle India's mountain of bad loans, according to economists.