The greatest play has been played. The man of character and the maverick, Raghuram Rajan has made his choice first. RBI governor Rajan stunned the government officials and investors on Saturday by announcing that he would step down the post when his term ends on September 4th. This move by Rajan has caused a certain furor, both real and unreal. The fate of the Indian rupee suddenly hangs in the balance. Will there is another James Bond, we wonder.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the government would name a successor soon and a senior official told Reuters there were currently seven names on the list of possible candidates. Note, none of them can ever fill in the same charisms but are close.
Here is look at the candidates seen as potential successors to Dr Rajan at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI):
One of the RBI’s four deputy governors, Mr Patel, 52, was reappointed in January for another three years. Patel has run central bank’s monetary policy department since 2013 and is viewed as a leading contender for the governor’s job next.
There is familiarity with Rajan too. A close lieutenant to Dr Rajan, Mr Patel headed a committee that had introduced landmark changes, which include switch to inflation-targeting and adopting consumer prices as the new benchmark instead of wholesale prices. The changes he helped drive are considered to be among the most significant monetary policy reforms since India opened up its economy in 1991.
Urjit Patel, whose remit at the RBI included managing money markets, has faced criticism from market participants too. With few of the traders and bankers complaining that he kept liquidity tight at a time when the RBI was lowering rates, starving banks of cash, he still seems like a viable choice.
A high-profile banker, Ms Bhattacharya has been at the helm of India’s largest lender — State Bank of India — since late 2013 and has earned praise from investors for her management of the bank’s mountain of bad debt. She was named in the Forbes list of world’s 100 most powerful women.
Ms Bhattacharya, 60, whose term as the chair at State Bank of India ends later this year, is perceived as another front runner in the race.
She was reportedly among the candidates interviewed to head India’s capital markets regulator before the government made a last-minute decision to extend the term of the incumbent. She has spent her entire career in the banking sector and never held any policy roles.
Mr Mohan, 68, had two stints as a deputy governor of the RBI. He also served as secretary at the department of economic affairs at the Indian government’s finance ministry and held positions at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Mohan was in charge of monetary policy, financial markets, economic research and statistics at the RBI.
Mr Gokarn, 56, also a former deputy RBI governor, currently serves as an executive director at the IMF. He looked after monetary policy during his three years at the central bank until the end of 2012.
Mr Lahiri, 64, a former chief economic adviser to the Indian government, also served the Asian Development Bank as an executive director.
He is the non-executive chairman of Bandhan Bank, one of India’s newest lenders.
Mr Chawla, 65, was last month appointed as the chair of the National Stock Exchange, India’s biggest bourse. He stepped down as chairman of Competition Commission of India earlier this year.
He has been a civil servant for most of his career, and has served on the board of the Reserve Bank of India. He has also been a director for state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp.
The 74-year-old economist has held several positions with the Indian government, including as a finance secretary.
He has authored several reports for the government, most recently writing about reviving public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects. Kelkar chalked out a fiscal consolidation road map under the previous government.
It remains to be seen as to who will be the next possible alternative for Raghuram Rajan. Most essentially, it remains to be seen if the new successor will take a cue from Rajan’s maverick yet effective practices or turns out to be another yes man ringing in favour of conservative approach.
Again, the fate of the rupee now hangs in the balance.
Compiled with inputs from