Samuel Johnson famously said: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Thoreau said "patriotism is a maggot in their heads," while Oscar Wilde described it as "the virtue of the vicious." All three seem to apply equally to Subramanian Swamy. He has really made a virtue of his viciousness and has found uses for patriotism, that would make Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon proud.
Subramanian Swamy is on a biting frenzy these days. The volumes of bites it generates in the frenzied media magnify his bites. But this latest frenzy represents an escalation never seen before. Not satisfied with the victim just bitten, he has taken to naming his next victims too.
After chief economic adivser Arvind Subramanian, he has named Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal as his next target. He has also snarled at Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung and has called him a Congress stooge. Arun Jaitley, Robert Vadra, Dayanidhi Maran and others more deserving of his attentions are also lined up in his firing range as targets.
Subramanian Swamy has traveled a long road from being an assistant professor in economics at Harvard University where he was talent spotted by the RSS’s Moropant Pingle and invited back to India.
He was on the faculty at IIT Delhi when the Jan Sangh, the BJP’s previous avatar, sent him to the Rajya Sabha in 1974 from UP. The Emergency then happened. That was his shining moment.
|After Indira Gandhi died in 1984, Swamy struck up a friendship with Rajiv Gandhi. (Sharad Saxena / India Today Group)|
But the grand career he envisioned for himself culminating as the prime minister hit an immovable roadblock in Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Swamy’s openly stated ambitions only earned him Vajpayee’s implacable hostility, who not only nixed his entry into the Janata Party government as a junior minister, but also ensured he was not a part of the BJP, when it came into being.
Swamy had no choice but to stay on with the rump Janata Party headed by Chandrashekhar. But it was not long before he began eyeing Chandrashekhar’s chair. His exertions ensured that he was unceremoniously thrown out in 1983.
When the Janata Party subsumed itself into the new Janata Dal on the eve of the 1989 elections, with the help of a fellow Tamil Brahmin, TN Seshan, Swamy grabbed the Janata Party’s title and symbol.
This was a part of Rajiv Gandhi’s gambit to confuse voters as the old Janata Party symbol was supposed to have some residual value. It didn’t work out that way and Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress was defeated.
Before this, Subramanian Swamy made an attempt to join the VP Singh-led Janata Dal. But he was rebuffed. His reputation preceded him.
When the BJP withdrew support to VP Singh’s government, Swamy found a purpose in life again. He joined the Janata Dal faction led by Chandrashekhar, which helped by the munificence of a Bombay business potentate, formed a government supported by the Congress.
Swamy was the go between, flitting regularly between Nariman Point and 10 Janpath. The business magnate had a legitimate grouse against VP Singh, for the rival corporate’s hitmen like S Gurumurthy and Arun Jaitley hugely influenced his government. But Swamy benefitted hugely by the association. It was not just the commerce ministry! But it wasn’t long before Swamy bit the hand that fed him.
When Swamy first burst onto the political firmament, the popular description of him was that he was an American agent. Those were the days when the coterie around Indira Gandhi saw a CIA agent behind every tree.
Ironically, it is Swamy who now is calling others American agents. This is why he says Arvind Subramanian should not be the chief economic adviser. That is the stated objective.
But Swamy’s goal is more sinister. He wants to eliminate him from contention as Raghuram Rajan’s successor at the RBI, as he doesn’t want another person walking the path that Rajan laid out. This is obviously in the interest of all those alleged industrialists whose kleptomaniac habits have left the banking system saddled with the unsustainable burden of non-performing assets (NPAs).
Rajan red flagged the red stain of NPAs and forced the banks to act on realising returns on the public’s money lent, quite a bit undeservedly, to our business houses. The top bank managers too have been complicit in this. Clearly Swamy had many irons in the fire when he went after Raghuram Rajan. That is why he also terms Arvind Subramanian unpatriotic.
Let's then examine Subramanian Swamy’s own track record, if patriotism were to be narrowly defined as he does.
He was part of the Harvard team of economists led by Prof Dwight Perkins which scaled down China's per capita income to $89.6 in 1970, as against India’s $110, when China was officially claiming its per capita income was ten times that.
That high income made it ineligible for the World Bank’s IDA line of credit meant for the really poor countries and which entailed the lowest interest rates. China was now a US "partner" ganged up with it against the then USSR and even India.
At that time, India being the biggest developing country got major share of the IDA line of credit reserved only for the really poor countries. This resulted in the IDA line of credit to India being more than halved, as China was now the biggest poor country.
China was hugely obliged to the Harvard economists, and the topmost Chinese leaders feted all of them.
Incidentally, in 1971, China was encouraged to attack India to relieve pressure on Pakistani forces in what is now Bangladesh. There is no record of Subramanian Swamy remonstrating with Harvard or with the Chinese over this.
Swamy’s "deshbhakt" activity doesn't end here. He was once a supporter of the LTTE and was in close contact with them. He espoused Eelam. Then there was an abrupt change.
Nevertheless, the well-known expert on terrorism, Rohan Gunaratne, also the author of India's Involvement in Sri Lanka wrote that Subramanian Swamy supported Eelam and the LTTE when he was a Harvard assistant professor. Swamy also publicly continued to support the LTTE for long after he returned to India. Then abruptly he shifted tack.
He now takes credit for the dismissal of the DMK government in Tamil Nadu by the Chandrashekhar government because it was an LTTE supporter.
Swamy was also for sometime a "chela" of Chandra Swami and their possible involvement in Rajiv Gandhi's assassination was something on which the Milap Chand Jain Commission spent much time.
At that time Subramanian Swamy was also a friend of the notorious arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, another Chandra Swamy friend. Khashoggi's Trump Towers apartment in New York was often a meeting place for his Indian buddies.
Swamy also chummed up with Jayalalithaa for a while before he turned against her too. This is believed to be the reason for the acid attack on Chandralekha, the IAS officer who quit service to join Swamy as his political comrade in arms.
Now Jayalalithaa and Swamy are on the same side of the political divide. Given his record, this is not a new situation for Swamy.
Will he turn on Modi too? Like he once did on the RSS. But he probably knows that Modi has his "end of the line" ways of dealing with rivals.