In the aftermath of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel’s resignation, the Congress and other Opposition leaders agreed on Monday to launch a common fight, both in Parliament during the winter session and outside, to “defeat the Narendra Modi government’s designs to erode the institutional autonomy and credibility of the RBI”.
Senior opposition leaders said Patel’s resignation indicated that the Modi government had an eye on the RBI’s cash reserves, and that it planned to distribute that money, whether to waive off farm loans or deposit money in the over 300 million Jan Dhan accounts, in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Senior leaders of 21 opposition parties, including that of the Congress, were in the middle of their strategy meet when one of them announced that Patel has quit. They agreed that they would need to go to the people to create awareness, as well as protest the “erosion of RBI’s credibility” in Parliament, in the coming days and weeks to build public opinion against the Modi government’s move to take away the RBI reserves.
As senior Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted later, others also were of the view that Patel should have quit on November 19, the day of the RBI board meeting. “The government’s immediate agenda is to grab the reserves of the RBI to meet its fiscal deficit target and to get funds for spending in an election year,” Chidambaram tweeted.
Opposition leaders said Patel was forced to quit, and that it happened on the eve of the election results to five assembly states, was significant. “Irrespective of the results, the narrative on the ground has shifted against the Modi government. There is widespread agrarian distress. Rural economy, small industries and informal sector have failed to recover after the double whammy of demonetisation and GST,” a senior Congress strategist said.
“In the middle of the meeting, we were told that RSS-BJP agenda is progressing further and the RBI chief has resigned,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi said. He said Patel resigned because he was protecting the institution and could no longer work with the government. He said there was consensus in the meeting room that the BJP’s assault on institutions, including RBI, Central Bureau of Investigation and Election Commission, needed to be fought. “The government is getting more and more desperate. It is taking measures that are dangerous for the country,” Gandhi said.
The Congress chief said the Modi government is trying to take away the reserves from the RBI to save its skin and try fix the mismanagement it has wrought.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who also attended the opposition meeting, said, “We are deeply concerned. The RBI is the custodian of public money. The credibility of all institutions is being destroyed. This is a financial and economic emergency.”
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said, “The Modi government’s desperation to dip into the RBI’s reserves is showing. This government will go to any lengths to tide over its monumental mismanagement of the Indian economy.”
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said Patel’s resignation was a “sad culmination” of Modi government’s “destructive efforts to demolish critical national institutions”.
The Opposition will have another meeting in the coming days after the election results, and might also meet President Ram Nath Kovind on the issue of protecting the institutions.