Shaktikanta Das, the new Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is taking charge of the central bank in less than propitious circumstances. His predecessor’s resignation was clearly a protest against the government trying to impose its will on the institution. In that context, Das’ most important task is a simple one –he will have to prove that he is his own man.
Admittedly, the new incumbent at Mint Street starts off with a handicap. While his vast experience in managing economic affairs is not in question, he has an unfortunate reputation as the man under whom the government launched its controversial demonetisation programme. The speed with which he has been appointed has also raised questions whether this was the government’s game plan all along.
While several bureaucrats from the Finance Ministry have gone on to become excellent RBI governors and have asserted their independence, they did not assume office in similar circumstances. Simply put, Das will have to prove his independence. The dice is loaded against him, which means that given the circumstances, he will initially be seen to have been appointed to obey the diktats of the Finance Ministry. He will not only have to take an independent line, but must be seen to do so. He will have to work extra hard to show he is no pushover.