New Delhi, Sep 25 (IANS) Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy on Wednesday claimed a role in the 1991 economic reforms, saying he had drawn up their blueprint while serving in the short-lived governemnt of Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar before it collapsed and a general election saw the return of the Congress to power.
“Ninety-five per cent of the credit should go to (P.V.) Narasimha Rao (who became the Prime Minister after the 1991 elections), the execution was by Manmohan Singh (the then Finance Minister) and Montek Singh Ahluwalia (part of the team under Manmohan Singh) but in terms of conception, it was mine,” Swamy said during a panel discussion following the release of his book “Reset” by former President Pranab Mukherjee here.
“It started with Chandra Shekhar and he was very much part of that,” maintained Swamy, who served in the government as the Commerce Minister.
Swamy said that he was approached in March 1991 for a copy of his blueprint which he agreed to hand over. He was then asked if he would join the cabinet.
“I said that I can’t do because it would meaning joining the Congress,” Swamy said, reiterating that it was Narasimha’s Rao’s “political leadership” that saw the reforms through as they broke new ground.
Fellow panelist Sanjaya Baru, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s media advisor till he resigned and returned to academia, tended to agree, saying that the budget presented by the Finance Minister in June 1991 “had all the elements of the previous” budget.
Swamy also said that Narasimha Rao wanted I.G. Patel, a former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India and who had served as the Director of the LSE and with the UNDP, as the Finance Minister but the latter declined, stating that while he had lived in various parts of the world, he had just built a house in Baroda (now Vadodara) and was quite firm on not returning to New Delhi.
Manmohan Singh’s name emerged soon after that, Swamy maintained.
Ever one to speak his mind, as Mukherjee said in his address, Swamy also took pot shots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan.
Modi’s advisors, Swamy said, “tell the Prime Minister only what he wants to hear”, leading to decisions like demonitisation, but he still has a “rapport with the public”.
As for Rajan, Swamy faulted him for tackling the economy at the micro level “which is for shopkeepers to do” – instead of at the macro level, leading to today’s high rates of unemployment.
Mukherjee, in his address, praised Swamy for speaking his mind out.
“What he feels and believes, he speaks out,” Mukherjee, describing this as someting rare for a politician.
Mukheree also recalled the first budget he had presented in 1982, soon after India had secured a massive $55 billion from the International Monetary Fund.
“The Opposition was very critical, saying the budget would be dictated by the IMF,” Mukherjee said, adding that when he saw Swamy coming toward him, he had wondered: “Would be condemn me?”
“He extended a warm hand and said whatever be the character of the budget – he would not use any adjectives – it is not an IMF budget,” Mukherjee said.