|Vinod Rai (Standing left) as a loyal official in February, 2007|
Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai and his 1972 IAS batch-mate, RBI governor D Subbarao were two most important aides of Chidambaram as finance minister during UPA-I. There was not even a single instance to find Rai, then banking secretary and Subbarao, then secretary of department of economic affairs, raising a voice against their boss on any matter whatsoever. They were loyal and faceless civil servants who preferred to remain out of the media glare allowing their boss to politically capitalize on their backhand work.
Incidentally, it was Chidambaram who pushed their cases, Rai for CAG’s post and Subbarao for RBI governor’s job.
But both are changed men now. As CAG, Rai has no obligation to listen to the government at all. And monetary policy is Subbarao’s own domain where he does not like his former boss to interfere.
After RBI’s half yearly credit policy review on October 30, Chidambaram’s frustrations were caught on camera. After unveiling a road-map of fiscal consolidation, Chidambaram was sure his former man in RBI would cut interest rate to facilitate growth, and ignore inflation at least for a moment. But Alas! Subbarao did not relent an inch. Chidambaram was so upset that he said: “If the government has to walk alone to face the challenge of growth, then we will walk alone.”
His other man of yesteryears, Rai has been a challenge for the government for the last two years. At least two of his reports, one on 2G spectrum and the other on coal allocation, gave sleepless nights to UPA-II honchos. But as time passes, Rai has turned a strong critic of the government at public functions. His sweeping comment against the government policies in a function in Gurgaon recently is giving enough ammunition to the Opposition to sustain its campaign against government’s alleged wrong and corrupt policies. “The brazenness (with which) decisions were being taken is actually appalling...”, was what Rai said while speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) meet, attended by top business leaders.
So, what’s next from Rai and Subbarao?