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Judge me on my work, not country of residence, says Modi’s CEA Arvind Subramanian

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Subramanian denies taking up the job only to embellish his CV, says would like to return to India as the chief economic adviser of all states.

New Delhi: Days before he is set to demit office, outgoing chief economic adviser (CEA) Arvind Subramanian Wednesday said the country should focus on attracting talent from across the globe for positions such as his, and not bother about a prospective candidate’s nationality or country of residence.

The 59-year-old Subramanian had come under attack from various quarters, including from BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, for not being a resident of India. Swamy had even urged the government to sack him.

“I should be judged on the basis of my work, on whether or not I have been able to deliver. That should be the question,” Subramanian told The Print. He added that imputing motives based on his place of residence was uncalled for.

The CEA, however, said these comments do not affect him.

“When you take up this kind of a job, you need to be prepared to face challenges and bottlenecks. If you cannot take up challenges or pressure, this job is not for you,” he said.

While many eyebrows were raised at the announcement of his sudden resignation on 20 June, leading to murmurs that he was discontent, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), an affiliate of the RSS, seemed to welcome his decision and said India doesn’t need “imported” consultants. A section of policymakers also voiced the opinion that many economists come to India to embellish their resumes and move on to even bigger jobs.

Subramanian, who is scheduled to move back to the US in September, denied that he had any such motivation.

“I don’t need to embellish my CV. I took up this job because it immensely interested me and I must admit I had the most exciting time of my life,” he said, adding that he was preparing for the next “exciting phase” of his life.

“I am getting ready for baby-sitting now, I have decided to write a few books, and so I will have my hands full,” Subramanian, who will become a grandfather in September, said.

‘CEA should stick to economics’

Subramanian has been under “scrutiny”, especially as his predecessor and former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan was known for his “straight talk”.

“The chief economic adviser should practice loyalty and dharma, and I feel the discourse should be restricted to the economy,” Subramanian, also a close friend of Rajan, added.

He said he enjoyed full freedom of expressing himself “internally” and thanked finance minister Arun Jaitley for it.

After spending over three-and-a-half years in North Block, he said one of his “biggest” regrets is that he was unable to initiate a similar department at the state level. If states had their own CEAs, it would enhance their economic affairs, he said.

“If you believe in karma then you know you come back some day. If I get the same opportunity, I want to come back as the CEA of all states simultaneously.” 

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