The BJP-led NDA government fielded Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to defend Chief Economic Adviser (CEA) Arvind Subramanian on Wednesday, after he came under attack from BJP MP Subramanian Swamy on Twitter.
Mr. Jaitley also dismissed suggestions that the government and the BJP had failed to quell Dr. Swamy’s tirade against Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan. “The government has full confidence in the CEA. His advice is of great value,” Mr. Jaitley said at a Cabinet briefing.
Earlier in the day, the newly nominated Rajya Sabha MP had, in a series of tweets, demanded that the CEA be sacked for what he called his “anti-India stance” on economic issues during his stints in Washington, at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and at the Center for Global Development.
“Who said to US Cong on 13/3/13 the US should act against India to defend US Pharmaceuticals interests? Arvind Subramanian MoF !! Sack him!!!,” Dr. Swamy had tweeted.
“From the point of view of discipline of Indian politicians, to what extent should we attack those [whom] discipline and constraints of office prevent from responding,” Mr. Jaitley said. “And this has happened more than once.”
Earlier, the BJP also said it did not agree with Dr. Swamy’s criticism of the CEA and termed it as “completely his personal opinion.”
National secretary Shrikant Sharma told a press conference that the party did not agree with his views, when asked about Dr. Swamy’s demand.
Wednesday’s diatribe from Dr. Swamy came in the wake of the campaign he ran against Dr. Rajan over the past few weeks, which, it is widely believed, partly led to the sudden announcement last Saturday from the Governor about his decision to leave the RBI at the end of his tenure in September.
Asked if the absence of a defence from the government had led him to this decision, Mr. Jaitley said: “The BJP and the government did not concur with Dr. Swamy on his comments about Dr. Rajan.”
Asked if the attacks against Dr. Rajan in the absence of a defence from the government had led him to this decision, Mr. Jaitley said: “The BJP and the government did not concur with Dr. Swamy on his comments about Dr. Rajan.”
He said the premise of the question was incorrect and that he had categorically spoken on this subject when the comments against the RBI Governor were made.
“Even the party president had specifically stated that the party does not agree with that comment which was made.”
In response to another question on whether the real target of Dr. Swamy’s shadow attacks was in fact the Finance Minister, rather than the two economists, IT and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, also present at the Cabinet briefing, replied: “Integrity of Shri Arun Jaitley is impeccable… His transparency and integrity is unquestionable.”
Mr. Prasad also added that Mr. Jaitley is known to the party’s members since his college days.
Separately, a top Finance Ministry official told The Hindu that the government had concluded that there was no substance in Dr. Swamy’s attacks against the Chief Economic Adviser. “I have read the CEA’s testimony to the U.S. Congress and it is okay,” the official said.
He said that the government had taken a decision to defend the CEA as he was “a part of the system”.