The recent appointment of Kenyan-born Urjit Patel as the governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has stoked controversy over his roots even as those who know him celebrated in Nairobi.
Some have criticised him for being ‘less Indian’ than his predecessor Raghuram Rajan whose term ends on September 4.
“Patel, perhaps, is far less Indian than Rajan (his predecessor) if we consider the fact that he took an Indian citizenship only after he was offered the post of RBI deputy governor in 2013.
Before that, Patel was a citizen of Kenya,” said Shweta Punj, the associate editor of India Today newspaper capturing the mood on the choice of the governor.
But Bharatiya Janata Party MP Subramanian Swamy on Sunday said it would be really ‘idiotic’ to criticise the newly appointed RBI governor for being born in Kenya.
Mr Swamy has been a bitter critic of the outgoing RBI governor, accusing him of pursuing policies geared toward controlling inflation at the expense of economic growth.
Mr Patel beat a pool of highly skilled contenders for the top job.
He was born in Kenya to Indian businessman Ravindra and his wife Manjula who ran a chemical factory named Rexo Products in Nairobi.
Described as “humble but very bright and knowledgeable” by his Kenyan acquaintances, Mr Patel studied in Visa Oshwal Primary School and later in Jamhuri High School in Nairobi.
He pursued a first degree from the London School of Economics and thereafter obtained a master’s degree from Oxford University in 1986 before obtaining a doctorate in Economics from Yale University in 1990.
He then immediately launched his career at the International Monetary Fund.
Defied noise by critics
In picking Mr Patel, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seen to have defied noise by critics over Mr Patel’s nationality.
Ms Punj also noted that Mr Patel also represented the need to pick the best for the job regardless of nationalistic sentiments.
“The message with this appointment is once again a reiteration of the global nature of India’s economy and that the government is looking beyond the usual tags of nationalism. It also shows that the government is genuinely interested in hiring real talent for the top job,” wrote the Ms Punj in a commentary.
Credit: Business Daily