Opinion: In Defence Of Mr Gurumurthy
First, a disclaimer. I don’t know Mr Gurumurthy. Yes, I have met him. Yes, I have been to his office in Chennai. Yes, I have spoken to him on the phone. Yes, I have quoted him during my days as a journalist. Yes, I refer to him as Guru which is how everybody refers to him. But none of this means that I know him. Or that he would recognise me if I were seated next to him.
During my previous career as a journalist, I have met all kinds of people. But few challenged me intellectually as Guru did. Others I would place in that league are Suresh Nadkarni, the then Chairman of IDBI. R N Malhotra, ex RBI Governor. N Vaghul, former ICICI Chairman. May be a few others. But Guru was different. He was younger than every one of them. So, he was blunt, in your face, not for him the niceties of the older folk . He called it as he saw it. Initially I was taken aback. I thought he was being abrasive. Rude. My Yale degree which I rarely, if ever, have flaunted meant nothing to him. But he made it a point to tell me when he learned about my background that my Ivy league schooling meant little to him. Intellectually, he was in a different league. I learned much.
Which is why when I read the writings about Guru’s appointment to the RBI Board, I am saddened. Guru probably would not care. When the venerable Financial Times trashes his appointment and describes it as signalling the erosion of RBI’s independence, I get worried. The paper and its reporter does Guru injustice.
It is one thing for Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala to resort to hyperbole by telling the FT that the independence of RBI is compromised as I do not expect him to know that the position of the members of the Central Board of RBI is largely ornamental.
But it is yet another matter altogether for a man who lays claim to scholarship and holds a position at a leading American think tank and is also a South Asia columnist of the WSJ, to hold up Guru’s appointment as evidence of technocratic experience fleeing the government. Far from it, Mr Sadanand Dhume, far from it. It would behove a man of your stature to take a position not supported by facts.
Guru has his ideology which you may like or not like, that is fine. But to pass a judgement unmindful of his technical expertise or competence is poor journalism on the part of FT.
Nowhere in the FT article is it mentioned that Guru is a highly respected and much sought after chartered accountant. Instead, in a tone meant to belittle him, it lists all that he is not. In fact, the website of the Institute of Chartered accountants of England and Wales describes the profession as being “one of the most advanced learning and professional development programmes available. It is valued around the world in business, practice and the public sector.” The reference is to the program they run in the UK but as anyone will tell you, the program in India is no less exacting and one needs to be of a certain calibre to even qualify.
What the journalist would have found out if he had done some good honest leg work is that in Guru is a man to whom much of corporate India turned to come out of tricky situations that required creative corporate restructuring. He was seen as a financial wizard who operated within the boundaries of law.
I am not here to change the mind of anybody, not that of Mr Dhume or the reporter, Kiran Stacey. But all that I say is this. Please don’t diss someone totally just for their ideology. Just like you have yours, others have theirs. Just because they belong to a different school of thought, it does not make them bereft of technical expertise.
I am willing to concede that may be it is a moment when reason deserted both Mr Dhume and Mr Stacy. But then at time I wonder, if they are not without the bigotry that they seek to charge others with, albeit of a different kind.
Either way, it does not behove well of men who seeks to shape opinions.