His moral compass is set against criminality and inefficiency, he expects transparency and abidance to the rule of law.
Watching events in India unfold from the UK is always fascinating. In England we are not familiar with many Indian politicians, there are frequent diaspora interactions with politicians, but they tend to hub around events at the Indian High Commission or at the London School of Economics. One of the exceptions is Dr. Subramanian Swamy who is regularly invited to participate in student debates and with think tanks; to my knowledge, he has been invited twice to Warwick, Oxford and the Ditchley Foundation in the past three years. Swamy appears tireless, moving seamlessly between cultures to support India, encouraging international bilateral relations and promoting his own Hindutva agenda. The many photographs in his office bear testimony to his worldwide reach, with Deng XiaoPing, with Barack Obama, with Prince Faisal; Swamy is what I call a global Hindu.
This personality coupled with his ethics has made him uniquely appealing to masses of young Indians and to foreigners.
Although he is without portfolio since 2014 Swamy has continued to campaign for the principles and vision set down in the BJP 2014 Manifesto: lower taxes and interest rates, improving life for farmers and making the most of India’s agricultural potential, bringing back Black Money and eliminating the scope for corruption, empowering women, sharing and re-awakening India’s civilizational heritage and culture, calling for Hindu unity and eliminating divisions of caste and language, refreshing the education curriculum, unblocking bureaucracy, innovation for job creation, the importance of technology, proffering ideas for improving the economy and tourism, advocating transparency and fast-tracking in the judiciary, and alternately bashing Pakistan or Sonia Gandhi.
Swamy is not someone who can be pigeonholed but for the purposes of this article, he is going to fitted into a Venn diagram as shown in Figure 1.
The first of the three circles will be called Personality. Swamy’s reputation precedes him, he can be relied on to be outspoken about issues but in general, he is just articulating the popular sentiment and urging the relevant administration/bureaucracy to act on the specific issue. He is an irrepressible patriot, maverick lawman, crime buster and wit, he is patient, uncondescending and usually relaxed. He has nothing to prove, his views and honour have been repeatedly vindicated. For a 100% Hindu he has an unconventionally secular family, married to Roxna, a Parsi, they have two daughters, one who is married to a Muslim and he has a Jewish brother in law; he also loves his dogs. This personality coupled with his ethics has made him uniquely appealing to masses of young Indians and to foreigners.
The second circle will be called Ethics. Dr. Swamy comes from a strict Brahmin family, his father Sitaram Subramanian had strict Congress principles and was “khadi orientated”. Sitaram Subramanian, was also a mathematician and Director of The Central Statistic Organization for India, an advocate of freedom of thought he was very ethical; as a great friend of Prime Minister Nehru, Sitaram even dared to disagree about the quality of Nehru’s advisors. This gives us a glimpse of the questioning and challenging atmosphere of Swamy’s early home life. His moral compass is set against criminality and inefficiency, he expects transparency and abidance to the rule of law. Once he has got his teeth into a cause he is like a dog with a bone. As a Ram devotee, he is driven by dharma and karma.
Dr. Swamy’s interpretation of Hindutva and the RSS is inclusive, he told me Hindutva means Hinduness, I think he said Hinduism is the defining characteristic of an Indian- whatever their faith or ethnicity. The common DNA theory is meant as a unification strategy, if Hindus and Muslims combine with one common heritage it is more likely to be peaceful going forward. What brought Dr. Swamy and Narendra Modi together originally was the concern that wherever there is a Muslim minority the Hindu majority suffers, examples Kashmir and Kerala. Swamy’s idea was to introduce equanimity across faiths, enforce education for women of all faiths and for all schools to have their curricula approved by The Central Board of Education, then introduce a Uniform Civil Code.
The Harvard years
Now let’s put his vast Experience into the third circle, here I refer to my notes from a couple of 2014 meetings. Subramanian Swamy studied for his masters in India at the Statistical Institute, his first foray into controversy was to expose the writings and theories of PC Mahalanobis as bogus and plagiarised; he was irrationally persecuted by Mahalanobis, his paper was so derisory he was anxious that he would be flunked. He wrote an article for Econometrica – a society and journal dedicated to a rigorous approach to theoretical, empirical, abstract and applied economic problems. This article went to Harvard for adjudication and Swamy was invited to Harvard for a Ph.D. During this time he studied under Nobel Laureate Simon Kuznets developing a lifelong affinity and respect for Jewish people. Whilst at Harvard Swamy discovered the satisfaction of disputing and became very proficient. The outcome was he was honoured to write a paper with the celebrated Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Samuelson for the American Economic Review, at the age of 24 Swamy became the first Asian in the Economic Faculty at Harvard.
Sold down the river
In 1969 he returned from Harvard at the invitation of Amartya Sen for a Professor’s chair on Chinese studies at the Delhi School of Economics, but this was short lived as his nuclear views and right-wing thinking was not in the political jet stream of that leftish time. Swamy is well known for his scholarship of China, he is fluent in Mandarin, Swamy declared that at that stage the potential for China and India was equivalent. He started demolishing anti-India stories, primarily that India was not capable of producing an Atom Bomb; he claimed that Atom Bomb development would generate jobs and growth, he promoted abandoning the Congress Government’s Soviet controls and principles. His scheme predicted 10% growth (not 3.5%), it was affordable without foreign loans. All this made him very unpopular with Indira Gandhi. Fake news rumours were rife: Swamy was a Soviet brainwashed intellectual or a CIA implant! Amartya Sen discredited him publicly by announcing he belonged the Hindu Right and Mrs. Gandhi made an accusation in Parliament that his free enterprise Hayekian book was a dangerous document written by Santa Klaus and signaled that he be treated as persona non grata, IIT withdrew his position. Swamy took the fall-back position of Professor of Mathematics at IIT.
The Emergency Years
The Emergency found him literally on the streets with his pregnant wife and a two-year-old daughter. A stint in exile in America and a 22year long court case ensued, he won and he was legally reinstated at IIT in the late 1990’s. Many Indian intellectuals were scared to be seen with him lest their commitment to socialism be doubted, thus in characteristic confrontation style, Swamy chose politics over academia.
He was Principal and Founder of the Janata Party which toppled Indira Gandhi, but problems arose for Swamy and the Janata party, the conflict with Vajpayee who was the party favorite meant there was friction between the ideological combinations of the party. This was not helped by Vajpayee’s envy of Swamy, inevitably “active measures” were taken against him and industrialists hurt by the disinformation campaign ceased donations, thus the destitute Janata Party split; Swamy remained President of what was left.
Mrs. Gandhi’s disavowal of him made him an attractive proposition for the RSS, he used this association to make his views known. Swamy and the RSS were a mutually useful partnership, the RSS had previously never had any economic expertise and the RSS gave Swamy as a pre-eminent Professor a perfect platform for attracting attention, the RSS adopted his Hindutva principle that India could stand up on her own feet. Swamy was always confident that the population was convertible into an educated innovative community.
The Jan Sangh Years
By now Swamy was renowned as a trouble-shooter – some may have said troublemaker– he called a meeting of the IIT senate and announced that 84% of the Institute Budget was going for building projects, not academia and research and that the laws of temporary academic employment were being exploited. He created an additional trade union to represent academics which within three months became the dominant union. But an administrative crackdown backfired and he discovered some corruption resulting from a discrepancy in the accounts of an auditorium construction which he was compelled to expose.
An appeal to the Supreme Court overturned the above, during the UP elections The Jana Sangh asked him to help add more seats. With IIT he ran a campus programme “vote profile analysis” that identified 220 out of 424 that they could potentially win with no corruption involved. The tally rose from 15 to 61, Swamy was celebrated, The Jana Sangh/ RSS rewarded him with promotion to the Rajya Sabha.
Locking horns with Indira Gandhi
It was about now that Mr. Vajpayee was sympathetic and friendly as a contrast to Indira Gandhi’s antipathy towards him. In 1974 an employee of a State-owned insurance company came forward with some evidence that Sonia Gandhi (then a housewife) was an insurance agent for four State-owned insurance companies. All the insured were employees of the Prime Minister’s Office and had given the business address of the PMO. Indian law said that no foreigner can be an insurance agent and a private government address was illegal as a business address.
There was an absolute furore when Swamy raised this in Parliament, his inherent morality raised a criminal complaint against which Indira Gandhi swore a statement that Sonia had resigned and was unaware of any illegality. Swamy was now a right-wing national hero and his reputation as troubleshooter against injustice was confirmed.
In 1980 the practice of accepting a commission for deals became the political norm in Delhi, a political tradition that continues to this day. Swamy with his intransigent attitude to corruption saw his party get smaller and smaller.
Swamy has no law degree he is motivated by public interest; in 1988 he accused Ramakrishna Hegde, Karnataka Chief Minister, of phone tapping and misusing discretionary powers to wrongly allocate prime land resulting in a conviction.
In 1990 Swamy organised the overthrow of the then incumbent VP Singh coalition. The Janata party sided with Rajiv Gandhi and set up a new coalition government in November 1990. He became the senior-most Cabinet Minister with two powerful portfolios of Commerce and Law & Justice. He then was able to persuade Prime Minister Chandrashekhar to make a dramatic change in India’s foreign policy of non-alignment by permitting 5 airfield sites in India for the US to land their aircraft en route to Saudi Arabia to combat Saddam Hussein in Kuwait during Gulf War I, for which he was praised personally by George Bush senior.
Swamy then set about drafting the blueprints for a market-friendly economic reform for which he received worldwide appreciation for proposing the dismantling of the Soviet command economic model. It was this blueprint that the successor Narasimha Rao government implemented and set the Indian economy onto the path of high growth rates in GDP.
Role in Rao Government
Dr. Swamy was invited to join the Rao government in a Cabinet rank post requiring dealing with World Trade Organisation issues, he abolished Soviet influence; he opened up initiatives in China to sign the first ever Trade Treaty and Protocol in February 1991.
Again in 1998, his Janata Party entered into a coalition with the BJP, a premier Tamil Nadu party, and others, to unseat Mrs. Sonia Gandhi led Congress Party in the General Elections to Parliament. But on past enmity, Vajpayee blocked his becoming Finance Minister despite the coalition partners decision. Within a year, Dr. Swamy took revenge on Vajpayee in 1999 by getting a major regional partner to defect from his coalition and bring down his government.
Despite living in India, Dr. Swamy continued to teach economics at Harvard University, who had wanted to keep a slice of his intellectual precision, he spent one semester there during the summer for 30+ years. But mysteriously in 2012 Harvard deleted his courses on a majority vote in the University Faculty meeting on a motion moved by the religious studies professors. Dr. Swamy had written an op-ed article in an Indian newspaper that was purportedly offensive to Muslims repeating some genetic research that Muslims and Hindus share the same ancestral DNA, this caused a commotion amongst liberal Left-wing academics. But a subsequent dinner meeting with President Barack Obama cleared the impression that Dr. Swamy, who had become a cult hero of Hindutva causes, was not persona non grata in the US.
Between 2008 and 2012, still motivated by ideological principles, he succeeded in cancelling the licenses of 9 telecom companies on the grounds that Spectrum is a National resource and therefore public property. He proved that had the licenses been issued at market price the Government revenue would have been equivalent to the personal income tax for the Nation for one year. If this was allowed to take place every year it would have meant huge revenue for the nation instead of the “existing idiotic Nehruvian schemes” that benefit no-one.
2014 Strategic Action Committee
In 2014 Swamy chaired the Strategic Action Committee that was so instrumental in planning Narendra Modi’s election campaign. Today as a third time Rajya Sabha member with no Ministerial post, Swamy is still campaigning pan-India on that 2014 BJP Manifesto; doing what it says on the tin, fulfilling as far as he can the pledges but without the authority to implement everything. Here’s where the three circles come in, join them into a Venn diagram, and where the circles intersect is a perfect connection between the man and many of the foundations of the Manifesto.
His reputation in his Asian neighborhood and from Israel to China, Silicon Valley to London demonstrates what a global Hindu he is. Swamy’s Virat convictions are in his DNA, he has the credentials for Finance Minister but BJP have never made that call.
Before the 2019 election, it is worth re-reading the introduction to the Manifesto by Murli Manohar Joshi, has trust in the government been restored?
- Dr Swamy takes on China, its bullish attitude and how to dish it back to them - May 6, 2021
- Swamy to restore just 2 more temples against 40k destroyed by Mughals - February 19, 2021
- Let’s talk about Democracy - February 3, 2020