Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has dropped major hints about his political proclivities months ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, revealing on the sidelines of the ongoing World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos that he has been in touch with party leaders in India, especially key opposition leaders.
The former IMF chief economist, who currently serves as the Katherine Dusak Miller professor of Finance at the prestigious University of Chicago Booth School of Business, has over the last few months become more vocal in his inputs regarding the state of the Indian economy, as well as on ongoing non-economic issues, implying that over 2.5 years since his high-profile exit from India's central bank, his vow of silence is well and truly over.
In a conversation with CNBC at Davos, Rajan elucidated about future policy action that needs to be taken, specifically addressing jobs and jobs creation, and opining that land acquisition is something that the next administration would have to tackle. At that point, he was asked about speculation that the Mahagathbandhan (implying Opposition, seeing as there are at least two and possibly three united fronts at the moment) may be courting him to occupy a ministerial post (Finance Minister has been mentioned) if they manage to displace the Modi government.
While Rajan concurred that it was "all speculation" and he was merely trying to put ideas into the system, when asked if political leaders (opposition leaders specifically) had reached out to him, and especially if he had spoken to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, he said, "I've spoken to Rahul Gandhi. I spoke to Chandrababu Naidu. I talk with whoever wants to talk with me. I talked with Mr Jaitley just 2-3 weeks ago." Raghuram Rajan had been appointed Chief Economic Advisor and then RBI Governor in the final years of the UPA regime but served the bulk of his time at the head of the RBI under the Finance Ministership of Arun Jaitley.
As a follow-up, when asked if he'd consider politics, Rajan said, "I'm not a politician, I've said it many times. One of the important things in life is to know what your competitive advantage is. I am a technocrat, I am an academic, those are the two areas I know about."
The answer left open the possibility of him occupying an important post in his capacity as a technocrat, and on being asked what he would do if he were called back to a position in India, he said, "Hypothetical question... But I really want us to think about what the next set of reforms need to be. There's no magic bullet, we really have to think."
On the same topic (reforms), he also said, "I think we really need to think about how we take our country forward. We're reaching a point where the old pace of growth isn't enough. We need a new revival, reinvigoration of growth, and what are the reforms we need to do - the second or third wave of reforms to put this country on its growth path."